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Healthcare Systems Rethink Their Community Impact and Patient Flow: Key Takeaways from the California Healthcare Facilities Summit

  by Megan Headley | Jan 08, 2018


  Healthcare systems are facing new responsibilities in how they make location decisions. This was one of the most significant takeaways at the Dec. 2017 California Hospital, Outpatient Facilities & Medical Office Buildings Summit in Los Angeles, organized by SquareFootage and co-hosted by the Health Care Institute.

Four of California’s biggest providers provided their perspectives on economic forces along with major designers and builders. Kaiser is changing its overall mission, according to Jodie Lesh, senior vice president, National Delivery System Strategy, Planning, & Design for Kaiser Permanente and president of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

“We had to rethink why we exist and update our mission statement to include improving the health and wellbeing of not just our members, but also the communities we serve,” Lesh said. She added that this was done by leveraging Kaiser’s broad array of assets to enable all business sectors of the organization to focus on accomplishing this mission.

As Lesh pointed out, “Small paradigm shifts matter.” The paradigm shift Kaiser has embraced is an understanding that the underlying economic issues of a community are a health issue that must be addressed through the strategic planning and design of its healthcare facilities.

Lesh shared several examples of how healthcare real estate decisions impact the community. A case study comparing South L.A. and Irvine, Calif., an affluent community in Orange County, revealed a vast disparity in the number of provider offices available to the respective communities. In the Irvine area there was one provider for every two members. In South L.A. there was one provider for every 600 members. “We had unintentionally redlined South L.A.,” Lesh noted.

On the other hand, the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Medical Offices project—where 48% of the labor force was hired from within five miles of the work site—is an example of how health systems can create upstream economic development for a community.

Through its Watts Health & Learning Pavilion, Kaiser is now seeking to maximize the economic impact for community health by creating local jobs, providing a free and open community space and focusing on sustainability, all through thoughtful design and real estate acquisition.

As healthcare campuses continue their push toward more outpatient care, recognition of this impact becomes increasingly crucial. As Alan Whitson, president of Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute, noted in his presentation on healthcare trends, the shift toward outpatient visits is accelerating, and nowhere more so than in California. There physician visits are on track to increase 217 percent faster than the population in the five-county Southern California region. In fact, Whitson noted, one in eight patient visits in the U.S. occur in California. And as the population ages, there will be more demand for healthcare services—and a dramatic impact on healthcare economics as Baby Boomers move increasingly from private insurers to Medicare.

So what does this mean for future healthcare facility designs? Panelists David Chung, executive vice president, Western US, for Anchor Health Properties, and Jeff West, senior regional director, Real Estate & Construction, of Providence Health, pointed to a few ways that buildings will need to change. Among the biggest demands is to see flexible healthcare facilities as the standard of future designs. In areas like Los Angeles, where demographics are so diverse, the front-of-the-house design needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the many needs of its patients. Imagine, for example, an MOB where primary care is the focus one week and specialties in demand the next week.

Each of these presenters also encouraged healthcare systems to focus less on “opulent, sprawling campuses” and more on efficiency and utility. Efficiency will be the key for the design of these facilities, and will be rethought as technology helps boost efficiency in patient visits.

As Whitson puts it, the average medical visit takes about two hours, and yet patients only spend about 20 minutes with a physician. Too much time is and money is being wasted on inefficiencies that can be improved with technology—and thoughtful design.

To read the full event takeaways, visit