Top considerations for a healthier medical office lease
The human skeleton may not even make it off the moving truck.
In fact, many of the traditional accoutrements of a physician office – like that set of bones, the framed diplomas, filing cabinets full of charts – won’t be found in today’s modern medical practices. EHRs, mobile tech, HIPAA, health system consolidation—a number of factors are changing the patient flow of your practice.
Which means you have a few things to think about when you’re shopping for your next medical office lease.
Health care changes trickle down to medical leases
Whether you’re opening a new practice, expanding to a second location or just growing into a larger space, recent changes in health care have had drastic ramifications on the physical design and space requirements of physician offices, clinics, wellness centers and other medical centers—across the U.S. and here in Kansas City as well.
Erica Sprey explains in Physician Practice:
“The theme is consolidation and partnership with other physicians, a hospital, or integrated health system so that providers can share space and disperse overhead costs for items such as new technology or additional staff to manage practice administration … If your budget is limited, don’t despair. The beauty of undertaking a practice redesign or new build is that you can customize the scope and timeline of the project to suit your practice’s individual needs.”
Before you sign your next medical office lease, however, keep a couple of important considerations in mind:
Location, location, location
A cliché for sure, but in this case it means so much more. Health care today is about creating an easy and convenient path to care for your patients—which usually means a location in a highly trafficked and easily accessible area. Also, ensure the wayfinding on the property and inside the building is easy to follow for patients and visitors.
Your proximity to other providers can be a huge benefit. In fact, the success of your practice may hinge on your medical neighbors, says Christopher Thames in Development Magazine:
“If a client can secure a location near other medical practices or referral sources, patients who value convenience may be attracted by the ease of scheduling and locating additional providers or specialists … [Yet] even the nicest facilities will struggle to attract business if they are not strategically located.”
Of course, depending on your service, note the location of your nearest competitors and decide how close you want to be. Some providers desire exclusivity within their building or medical office park, so be sure to negotiate that with the landlord if appropriate.
Also, beware of neighboring businesses that may not align with your mission. After all, a wellness clinic might look out of place next to a vaping shop or a liquor store. And if the space will eventually house multiple tenants, ask the landlord who can and can’t move in. (You don’t want a Zumba class above your patient exam rooms.)
Building out a medical practice space can be pricey and may require some upgrades before you move in. For example, certain pieces of medical diagnostic equipment may require 220V, exam rooms need their own sinks and additional plumbing, etc. Consider medical office space that was previously occupied by a medical tenant to avoid many of these additional hits to your budget.
If that’s not an option, be sure to factor in those additional build-out costs. It’s usually in your favor if you can be in control over the work to allow you to find architects, builders and other contractors who know medical and have health care experience.
Think through your space requirements: How many exam rooms do you need? How should the waiting room be designed that allows for proper flow and capacity while also meeting privacy needs? Be sure the spaces (including the bathrooms) are ADA-compliant, and check how the local and state licensing offices interpret the federal guidelines. This may mean larger doorways, ramps, more railing, etc. Be sure the wayfinding makes sense: Both patients and providers need efficient space with proper flow, which will also help you maximize your square footage.
Finally, don’t forget parking! Think through what kind of capacity you’ll need for your patient volume, making sure you include enough handicapped spots.
A medical expert for the medical experts
We’re in an exciting time in health care real estate, especially here in Kansas City, where we’re seeing many of our main campuses modernize and really expand to what the demographics want in health care today. We’re also seeing a push toward bringing care to our neighborhoods, making the whole process more convenient and accessible—health care in your backyard.
If you’re ready to sign a new office lease, remember that the process always involves a lot of details, and medical office leases often come with additional layers of complexity. Don’t try to handle everything yourself; instead find a commercial real estate broker who specializes in medical office leasing—someone with experience helping medical clients find and evaluate properties that best suit the needs of the practitioners and the patients.
From market evaluation and site selection to lease comparisons and negotiation, a skilled broker is the partner you really need in your practice (no offense to your model skeleton, of course).
Molly Crawford Munninghoff is vice president of brokerage at Copaken Brooks, a full-service commercial real estate firm headquartered in Kansas City and serving the Midwest. The company’s full suite of services includes: leasing (office, medical, retail, industrial and underground), construction management, investment acquisition and sales, tenant representation and HQ relocations, condo management, property management, asset management, and development. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @CopakenBrooks.