NEW YORK CITY—Healthcare real estate is getting its share of attention right now. But fretting over the right site can’t come at the expense of something just as crucial to the property’s success: proper management. So says Debra Schooler, VP and national director of healthcare management at Transwestern, in this EXCLUSIVE commentary for GlobeSt.com. Schooler looks at how a good manager/tenant relationship is necessary to a well-run operation, and why the quality of care provided is not just a responsibility of the tenant.
The views expressed below are the author’s own.Debra Schooler
Effective property managers support their tenants’ business activities, and medical office tenants are in the business of healing. That makes patient care an important concern for the real estate team, and is one of the defining characteristics of this property type.
Here are a few of the ways property teams can set a positive tone for customers visiting the physicians and service providers in their buildings.
The patient experience begins in the parking lot rather than the lobby. Parking spaces, traffic flow, signs, sidewalks and landscaping can help or hinder a visitor’s arrival and progress to the building. Many patients are ill or infirm, may have impaired eyesight or require the use of a cane, walker or wheelchair. Bearing that in mind, surfaces should be smooth, free of clutter, overhanging branches or overgrown shrubbery, with curbs and ramps clearly defined.
Consideration for patients and tenants with weak eyesight, and for the elderly or disabled, is especially important inside the building. Directional signs, hallways, elevator cabs and all public areas must be well-lit, with vigilant attention shown to replacing burned-out bulbs quickly. Ideally, elevator buttons should be brightly lit or with high-contrast labeling.
Proper attention to cleanliness in the lobby, corridors and other public areas will keep the building smelling clean and fresh. Air fresheners seldom mask odors effectively and may offend some ill or sensitive patients.
Restrooms should be clean and well-supplied, complete with changing stations. Because visitor traffic to a medical building is three times more than that of a regular office building, a day porter who continually cleans the restrooms is a smart investment.
If a single word can encapsulate what sets healthcare space apart from conventional office buildings, it is “urgency.” That’s the reason that the right management team, properly trained, is more important in healthcare facilities than in any other commercial property type. Engineers and cleaning crews must be trained to respond quickly and effectively to building emergencies, particularly those that pose a risk to health and safety.
Biohazards are an ever-present risk in properties frequented by the ill and injured. Not only are visitors a potential source of contagious disease, but they may be more susceptible to health dangers than the general public. Whether a patient in the hallway tears an incision or falls and skins their knees, maintenance personnel trained in biohazard and blood-borne pathogen clean ups must respond immediately to clean and sanitize the area. The safety of those in the building must be protected.
If a doctor’s office or laboratory clogs a sink drain, has a problem with climate control or loses lighting in an examination or surgical area, it can render that space unusable until engineers correct the problem, potentially delaying patient care. Building teams must respond accordingly, with the same sense of urgency that governs the caregivers they serve.
The owners of medical office buildings want to know that the management team is taking care of the valuable healthcare providers in their building with the same concern that those physicians give to patients. It is the property team’s job to keep the building healthy and tenants happy, so they can heal their patients.