In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Paula Crowley is CEO of Anchor Health Properties (Wilmington, Del.), a healthcare development company. Here, she shares her thoughts on branding, flexible building design, and taking lessons from retail to better understand consumer needs and site selection in healthcare.

1. You’re only as good as your brand 

Branding creates awareness, keeps a hospital’s facility top-of-mind, and builds affinity and customer loyalty. Even though it’s the hospital’s services that bring in the revenue, a brand is what differentiates the hospital from its competition and gets the patients in the door. The brand is also what separates one facility experience from another, not only in terms of the design, but also in operations and the overall experience.

2. The healthcare consumer is just like any other consumer 

Healthcare systems often overlook the similarities between healthcare and retail experiences despite the fact that healthcare and retail consumers value the same things: convenience and customer service. When we begin to think of patients this way, we better understand their needs and can position our facility to meet them. Ambulatory services, or “product lines,” have become increasingly market driven. There is little place for the common medical office building.

3. Building as a kit of parts

With the changing healthcare landscape, it’s critical that the healthcare facility business responds with innovation and flexibility.  In the outpatient arena, it’s timely to think about buildings being composed of a kit of parts—the exam room, waiting and reception, and diagnostic areas—that can be easily replicated across multiple facilities for the same client. These building blocks become as much a part of the brand as the materials, colors, and signage and enable a project to be first to market since the key components have already been established by the client. Being able to move quickly is becoming increasingly important in the highly fragmented and competitive outpatient business.

4. Strategy and market are facility drivers, too 

Healthcare design and construction doesn’t start with the building. Savvy healthcare clients are becoming increasingly convinced that their facilities need to become an extension of their market strategy. It’s imperative to understand that a project’s financial success will ultimately be based on knowing their target customers, analyzing the demographics of their service areas, identifying their competition, and understanding what distinguishes them from the competition.

5. Don't let Walgreens beat you to the corner

Location is everything. Your hospital might be the best there is, but if people can’t get to it easily then it’s difficult to get their business. Think of location in terms of convenience, visibility, and access. For an outpatient center, your criteria for choosing a location need to be same that Walgreens is using for its store sites. You might be across the street from them or even competing for the same site.

Paula Crowley

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