Speed to market. Reduced capital expenditures. Improved access to care. Enhancing the patient experience. These four driving forces are causing healthcare providers to re-evaluate how their strategic direction—including real estate strategies—can impact the bottom line, patient satisfaction, and overall care delivery.
Now more than ever, providers need modern facilities that can improve the efficiency of the care-delivery process. At the same time, the current soft commercial real estate market is allowing them to explore alternatives to traditional facility renovation or ground-up medical center construction.
One option that is gaining favor nationwide is the repurposing of existing building stock—often vacant office buildings or shuttered big-box retail spaces—to accommodate outpatient medical functions. This approach is attractive in that it can be significantly faster and less expensive than a build-to-suit solution.
Outpatient centers can usually be classified as a “B” occupancy or office building usage, requiring fewer regulatory approvals and smaller space requirements as compared to a traditional hospital. However, the challenge of adaptive reuse in healthcare is successfully inserting function into building form to create a building that supports operational efficiency while providing a welcoming and healing experience for patients.
The right solution at the right time
For Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, the recent economic downturn coincided with a building expansion program, focused on delivering several new multispecialty outpatient facilities. In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, the market for developer-driven office space has been traditionally robust, catering to the workplace needs of the federal government.
However, no different than other major cities, the D.C. office market was also hit by the recession, leaving an inventory of empty speculative office buildings in its wake. Kaiser Permanente was able to evaluate its options.
A confluence of attractively priced real estate, membership growth, and lease expirations at other facilities in the vicinity led to the solution of converting existing office buildings to house medical functions. AECOM was retained to provide design services for two of those multispecialty facilities, including one in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which transformed an existing, vacant six-story, 200,000-square-foot office building into a state-of-the-art ambulatory care center.
This particular site had several advantages. Conveniently located off Interstate 270 in a quiet, green setting, it is easily accessible to patients. This relatively tall building has great visibility and provides an excellent means to promote the Kaiser Permanente brand of integrated healthcare delivery to the community.
The building floorplate was also flexible enough to allow the team to meet the project’s goals: maximizing space utilization for healthcare delivery while reinforcing Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to the total health of its members at every touch point.
More than just an outpatient clinic, the Gaithersburg Medical Center houses a wide array of primary and specialty medical care services, including 24-hour urgent care center, 23-hour-stay clinical observation unit, ambulatory surgery, infusion center, 24/7 pharmacy, laboratory, and sophisticated radiology center—all located under one roof. Completed in March 2012, the facility is now Kaiser Permanente’s largest in Maryland.