With a renewed focus on access to care and lowering costs, healthcare providers are increasingly occupying space along busy retail and office corridors.
Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and outpatient clinics, including for behavioral health, are fast-growing segments of the healthcare industry. Other factors driving growth include changes to insurance reimbursements, and consumer demand for a convenient healthcare experience.
The move to outpatient locations began several years ago as part of a larger trend to bring health care closer to homes and workplaces and to lower cost of care. COVID-19 has accelerated this trend.
With a growing 65-plus population in Illinois that is projected to increase 17% by 2030, more people working from home and a growing investment in new healthcare technology, we will see a significant increase in these types of facilities throughout Chicagoland.
Acceleration of outpatient procedures
More than half of all surgeries in the U.S. are done on an outpatient basis thanks to advances in surgical techniques, anesthesia and pain management. Combined, these allow patients to recover from surgery safely and comfortably in their own homes, according to Advancing Surgical Care.
ASCs provide same-day surgical care, including diagnostic and preventative procedures, at a lower cost and with a lower infection rate than having surgery in a hospital.
Nationally, Vizient, Inc., a healthcare performance improvement company, has reported that ASCs will experience patient growth of 25% by 2029, especially as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services eliminates their inpatient-only procedures list, and expands the number of procedures which may be provided in an ambulatory (outside of hospital) setting.
A local example is the Valley Ambulatory Surgery Center in St. Charles. In 2019, Ryan Companies designed, developed and constructed this ASC for Surgery Partners, a leading healthcare services company that owns and operates more than 180 locations in 32 states. The 24,000-square-foot ASC features six operating rooms and two procedure rooms.
A hub-and-spoke model to enhance access
Large healthcare systems are also continuing to adopt a hub-and-spoke model of care with the hospital campus as hub and outpatient environments the spokes. This model brings care closer to patients' homes, schools and workplaces, which makes visits to the doctor more accessible.
The pandemic accelerated the move toward this model as many patients wanted to avoid hospitals and emergency rooms because of the perceived higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Additionally, the federal government, insurers and providers look toward preventative health care as an important activity to improve community health outcomes while also lowering costs. Preventative health care works best when the general population can be seen regularly, so locating clinics within communities helps make doctor visits become more convenient, routine and part of an individual's life.
For instance, Ryan is a developer, builder, property manager and owner of a new health center that acts as a spoke for Edward-Elmhurst Health, one of Illinois' larger integrated health systems. Opening soon at the southwest corner of Route 53 and 75th Street in Woodridge, the two-story, 36,100-square-foot health center will be home to Edward-Elmhurst Health physician offices, including primary care and specialists. Other services include a walk-in clinic, behavioral health, physical therapy, laboratory and diagnostic imaging.
The Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Woodridge marks the second clinic built in partnership between Edward-Elmhurst Health and Ryan; Edward-Elmhurst Health Center on Schiller Street in Elmhurst opened September 2018.
Increased need for mental health services
With the stress of the pandemic, the demand for mental health services skyrocketed and erased some of the unwarranted stigma associated with seeking counseling. As a result, many mental health providers who are now able to see their patients in person are seeking highly visible space in attractive settings that make people comfortable, calm and happy to come back.
In Westmont, Ryan recently completed a two-story, 50,000-square-foot building in its Oakmont Point office park redevelopment, which has been leased entirely to Compass Health Center.
The mental health care provider will provide services in a beautiful space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a 4-acre pond.
Dr. Claudia Welke, Compass Health Center co-founder and chief medical officer, noted that she is excited to bring Compass' nationally recognized specialized care in a warm and engaging environment to the western suburbs.
"We have been treating many patients from this area for the past 11 years, and having a new facility closer to this population will allow for greater convenience and patient outcomes," she said.
In short, healthcare is evolving to look more like the retail model, with providers setting up shop in locations that give customers easier access to care, make visits more time and cost efficient, and increase their comfort level. These changes will all help to make the care experience more modern, holistic and oriented toward wellness.
• Curt Pascoe is director of real estate development for Ryan Companies, providing solutions for healthcare systems and provider groups in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. He advises clients in site selection and acquisitions, permits and approvals, and design and financing.