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Healthcare's Going To Take More Retail Space (Unless Telemedicine Means It Won't)

Healthcare's an unpredictable industry, and that goes for the exact kinds of space it will need in the future, according to the speakers at our Boston Healthcare Expansion Forum. For instance, healthcare's increasingly a retail operation, or at least it takes retail space. But various forms of telemedicine might undermine that growth.


The retailization of healthcare will be central to the future of the industry, our speakers said. Patients need—and will demand—multiple channels to access care. An important part of healthcare's future will tap into these alternative sites of care—more specifically, care at home and leveraging technology

There's also an important and growing segment of the population that will use telemedicine and access care online. As an emerging part of medicine, teledermatology (for instance) has confirmed very high levels of interest and positive responses from patients using these services.

Also, healthcare companies have just begun using video visits treating a range of patients and conditions. It's an alternative to in-person patient visits, which will ultimately impact exam room and other space needs.

Above: E4H Architecture business development director Septima Maclaurin, who moderated, Steffian Bradley Architects executive principal Steve Van Ness, Atrius Health CEO Steven Strongwater, Boston University School of Medicine dean Karen Antman, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank executive managing director Frank Nelson and CVS VP Tobias Barker.


Our speakers on the future of medical office buildings said healthcare providers now work in teams, so space for teams needs to be programmed into new MOBs. Technology is allowing patient physical exams and evaluations to be sent from offices and even homes to central monitoring sites, saving patients and physicians significant travel time.

There are still a lot of open questions about MOBs, our speakers said. How will advances in telemedicine impact physical and space needs in the future? Will there even be as much demand for healthcare real estate in the future, or will location demands change?

Space configurations might have to change to accommodate telemedicine, but so far the path ahead is unclear. Will telemedicine effectively bypass the current retail clinics that are growing so rapidly across the country? These are all important questions that will need to studied and addressed over time. 

Here are Array Architects VP Jeffrey Drucker, who moderated, Suffolk Construction VP of operations Andrew Potts, Steward Health System EVP John Polanowicz and Healthcare Trust of America CFO Robert Milligan.