While much of the healthcare industry is focused on appealing to a younger population with higher-tech facilities, telemedicine and various healthcare apps, baby boomers are entering retirement age en masse, heralding the oncoming flood of older patients with unique needs.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people age 65 and older will outnumber those under the age of 18 by 2035. This will be a new demographic shift for the country and could place an enormous burden on healthcare facilities to meet the needs of a graying population.
During the most recent editorial board meeting of Healthcare Real Estate Insights magazine, members comprising executives with top firms in the healthcare real estate sector noted that they remain optimistic about the prospects of the medical office building (MOB) sector over the next two or three decades—for both investment sales and new development—in large part because of the growing demand from the baby boomer population. "Baby boomers were one of the greatest change agents this country has ever seen," says Steve Christoff, senior vice president of Design Innovation with healthcare developer NexCore Group LP. "And, they’re still a big influence on what’s happening today, including what they want in healthcare."
Patients, including baby boomers, now are considered healthcare consumers with a choice of where to receive care.
So, what do baby boomers want when it comes to the facilities where they receive care? It turns out that much of their preferences are the same as those of their younger counterparts.
"They’re active and they, like anyone else, don’t want to sit around waiting," Christoff explains. "And, they don’t want to have to go to numerous facilities in a day, so one-stop medical office buildings with e-visits available, places for health education classes to keep them healthy and, perhaps, exercise facilities and numerous specialties appeal to them."
Steve Barry, president of development firm Rendina Healthcare Real Estate, agrees. He says that baby boomers tend to be "well-educated, sophisticated and fairly tech-savvy consumers. It’s important to consider convenience factors, such as same-day [or walk-in] appointments, as well as self-check-in kiosks. At the same time, it’s important to have friendly staff available in addition to the kiosks. Wi-Fi availability and a quiet environment [also are] important to these folks."
Baby boomers, according to those involved in designing and developing MOBs, also want attractive entries with a welcoming, cheery feel, much like a high-end hotel, with healthy dining options and waiting areas with good views where they can visit with friends and family. While baby boomers may be aging, they don’t want to receive treatments or visit their doctors in aging, rundown and out-of-date facilities.
This is one of the reasons why the development of outpatient healthcare facilities is currently experiencing an upswing, as healthcare providers are feeling the need to attract patients during an era when reimbursements are falling and competition is heating up. Patients, including baby boomers, now are considered healthcare consumers with a choice of where to receive care. "They’re demanding convenience and control in their medical delivery options," states John Castorina, national healthcare practice leader with architecture firm Hoefer Wysocki. "And, they want their doctors and the staff to be more engaged in their care than other generations."
Perhaps a prime example of an outpatient healthcare facility designed to appeal to retiring, active-minded baby boomers can be found in one of the largest 55-plus communities in the country, The Villages—home to about 120,000 people in central Florida. There, Anchor Health Properties is teaming up with The Villages Health, the on-site health services provider, to develop a 285,000-square-foot multispecialty facility. Not only will providers offer a wide range of services, including surgery, but the facility is being designed as a "destination," accessible by golf carts and connected to a 150-room hotel and conference center with a spa. "As you can imagine, healthcare is a very important aspect of life in such an active community as The Villages," says Katie Jacoby, executive vice president of Strategy and Development with Anchor. As a result, she says the building, which is set to open in 2019, will include a number of areas where patients can socialize or wait for friends to finish their appointments, such as an outdoor courtyard, and waiting rooms that resemble lobbies.
The development of outpatient healthcare facilities is currently experiencing an upswing, as healthcare providers are feeling the need to attract patients during an era when reimbursements are falling and competition is heating up.
Paying attention to these preferences and trends will help healthcare real estate professionals remain competitive. All of these features—convenience, community, high-tech options and amenities—appeal to older and younger generations alike. As the population continues to age, these are likely to become standard offerings in healthcare settings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John B. Mugford is the editor of Healthcare Real Estate Insights magazine at Wolf Marketing & Media LLC (www.wolfmediausa.com).