What healthcare real estate looks like will vary by acute and non-acute settings.
In a recent episode of NREI's Common Area Podcast, David Bodamer spoke with Bob Atkins, principal of the Atkins Cos., about what he's learned from operating his company's medical office portfolio in the COVID-19 era.
Tenants with practices that have a greater emphasis on essential healthcare have remained opened. Others that might have more of a focus on elective surgeries have opted to shut down temporarilty.
What's been true for all medical tenants is they've taken steps to protect patients. Sites are cleaned more frequently. Waiting areas have been dismantled. When patients arrive on site they go directly to examination rooms and then leave directly afterward. Everyone wears masks at all times.
Some practices are operating under extended hours, in order to spread patient visits out to decrease density in an office at any one time.
For non-acute settings, “as social distancing measures become normalized, healthcare employees could be asked to keep masks on and be encouraged to use the stairs instead of elevators, with mandatory hand sanitizer usage before and after touching the regularly disinfected handrail,” says Kimberly Lamb, executive director, JLL healthcare corporate solutions. “In open floor plans, we could see plexiglass shields between desks that face each other, allowing for built-in social distancing, as well as signs that direct walking traffic in a single direction. And in some instances, we might see staggered shifts to allow for in-person work while keeping headcount to a manageable size to meet social distancing requirements.”
On the acute side, “Hospitals are already restricting visitors and have created designated areas to screen patients, staff, and vendors prior to entering their facilities for certain criteria related to COVID-19,” says Kathy Tolomeo, director, compliance strategies, JLL Healthcare Solutions. “Furthermore, these facilities should conduct a risk assessment of their facility to evaluate accommodation of social distancing guidelines and improve additional resources, such as for hand hygiene or additional personal protective equipment (PPE). These facilities should ensure that staff are educated, trained, and competent to assist in maintaining these new environments and how to hold everyone accountable for the safety of all individuals within their facilities. Facilities will also need to re-evaluate and monitor the quality of cleaning and disinfecting procedures to ensure alignment with CDC guidelines.”
Medical office buildings are also adapting.
“Social distancing measures in a medical office building will be treated similarly to a typical office building, with close alignment with medical tenants to address their specific needs,” notes Connie O’Murray, managing director, property management, JLL. “If the building is investor-owned and is also on campus, the alignment will be with hospital leadership and operations as well. Either way, we’ll see technology play a key role, with possibilities from temperature screenings upon arrival, pre-registration to eliminate waiting rooms and added UV capabilities in HVAC systems in order to kill airborne particles.