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Finger On The Pulse: Bisnow Event Explores Challenges And Opportunities For Healthcare In The Pacific Northwest


As an attorney who practices healthcare real estate law, Kurt Kruckeberg sees firsthand the passion people bring to the medical arena, whether they work directly with patients or create facilities to provide care. 

“There are all kinds of innovative ideas being discussed among people in this industry who are really smart and care a lot,” said Kruckeberg, an attorney with Seattle-based Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson. “Because that's why they're in this field: They want to help people.”

Kruckeberg understands that passion, which is one reason he has moderated a panel at Bisnow’s Pacific Northwest Healthcare Conference for several consecutive years, most recently in October. The designers, administrators, engineers and contractors on that panel explored Enhancing the Patient Experience: Advancements and Innovations in Healthcare Facilities.

Bisnow spoke with Kruckeberg to learn more about what he took away from the Oct. 24 event in Seattle.

Bisnow: Tell us a little about your background in healthcare real estate.

Kruckeberg: I’ve been in practice for about 12 years, dealing with real estate transactional work: performing site determinations, acquisitions, diligence and more for many different clients.

In 2016, our firm helped a large community-based regional healthcare facility with its acquisition of another hospital system. That was my first nine-figure healthcare transaction, and since then I’ve been doing a lot of healthcare-related real estate transactions, largely through referrals. It's been really gratifying work to do. It is complex and requires a lot of creativity, and it benefits the greater good.

Bisnow: What keeps you coming back as a moderator at the Pacific Northwest Healthcare Conference?

Kruckeberg: It's a great event to help me and others keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening in this industry. 

What's really great about this entire event, particularly with the executive-level panel that begins the day, is you learn what's on the minds of folks in the industry — what's keeping them awake at night and what are the opportunities that they see in the future? 

I've always viewed my panel as a great opportunity to ask, “OK, we just heard from some top-level executives. What are you doing in your design and building work to address all of the concerns that we just heard about?”

Bisnow: What were people talking about at the event this year?

Kruckeberg: There was a lot of discussion about the workforce shortage, the cost of the workforce and staffing of medical facilities. Nursing is a concern, but there is also a potential physician shortage in the future. One executive at the event even said that because of retirements coupled with a different style of work among new generations of doctors, they're thinking they need an estimated 1.5 new physicians for every one that is retiring.

As it relates to design and construction, they talked a lot about building community through flexible spaces that can accommodate everything from a disaster or pandemic to the expansion of telemedicine that we've seen take off since the pandemic began in 2020. 

Bisnow: How are healthcare facilities responding to these challenges?

Kruckeberg: An executive at a rural hospital system gave a great telemedicine example. That hospital system can’t have a neurologist staffed at all times to deliver a particular kind of drug to a stroke victim within a certain amount of time. Instead, they use telemedicine so that a neurologist at an urban hospital can work with them remotely to figure out whether they can deliver this medicine to the person under observation.

Things like that are changing the way that technology is incorporated into facilities, and it also means that we can deliver care remotely more easily. If we’re going to need 1.5 doctors for every one who retires, do they all need to be in one location or can we deliver more care remotely? And of course, that affects design, the way we use space and the way technology is integrated.

Bisnow: What observations did the people on your panel make?

Kruckeberg: The head of facilities and operations for a major medical center talked about how for a very long time, healthcare tenants reliably needed only a single build-out that was not really going to change as long as they were in that clinic space. Now, he and other panelists were thinking about how to make their patient rooms more universal and adaptable because the use of space is changing more frequently.

That was something that the senior planning, design and construction director of a Seattle hospital also talked about: Can we make the clinic space and exam rooms universal in a way that they serve our current needs but also allow us to convert them to serve other needs within a fairly short amount of time? They're thinking about flexibility and adaptability at the start of a project in a way that maybe was not as much of an emphasis in the past.

Bisnow: What did your panelists have to say about the future?

Kruckeberg: Artificial intelligence came up quite a bit and how it could be deployed in healthcare responsibly to help on the workforce issue. 

The CEO of a large regional construction company said they're working on a cutting-edge data project to try to help estimate costs better. He also talked about how a lot of the things that we do in this industry are some part science and some part art. He thinks we can use AI to speed up the science part of our work and then leave the art part to the humans. At least that’s one way he hopes we can start harnessing AI, and I think that is the view of a lot of people as we approach the question of how best to deploy it.

This article was produced in collaboration between Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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