Nicole Foster, General Manager, Asset Services
December 07, 2022
Commercial properties are not created equal when it comes to management and oversight. For example, providing asset services for a single-tenant distribution facility varies dramatically from the skills needed to oversee a multi-tenant, 30-story office tower.
The same applies to the specialized asset knowledge and training required for medical office buildings (MOBs), which serve physicians and patients in healthcare settings. Ensuring the well-being and safety of every visitor is of paramount importance. That’s why it’s essential to understand MOB differentiators and unique considerations and implement a patient-centric approach to asset services.
What Makes MOBs Unique
A medical office building is a sector of the office market dedicated exclusively to healthcare practices that provide outpatient services, such as primary care, dentistry, dermatology, and ophthalmology. Medical tenant leases are often negotiated with longer terms than traditional office buildings due to the higher upfront investment necessary to design and build healthcare spaces. This includes potential special requirements during construction for expanded plumbing, additional electrical to accommodate medical equipment, and acoustic levels that protect patient privacy.
Typically, MOBs are located on or near hospital campuses and medical centers to capitalize on population centers and referral opportunities. Like hospitals, MOBs are designed with patients in mind; safety, navigation, comfort and connectivity are essential components of the building’s functionality. Unlike hospitals, MOBs are only open during scheduled business hours and do not have beds for admitting patients overnight.
Higher Safety Standards
MOBs are held to higher safety and cleanliness standards than regular offices, with more robust HVAC, air quality, electrical, and plumbing requirements. For instance, MOBs need emergency generators, fire suppression systems, and fire alarms triggered by medical equipment like MRI machines. They also need hazard waste pick-up and specimen collection sites.
MOBs experience high foot traffic throughout the day, primarily by people with the greatest risk of injury by slipping, tripping or falling. As a result, signage and wayfinding take on greater importance, as well as mobility considerations like patient pick-up and drop-off, ADA compliance, and access to elevators, wheelchairs and chair lifts.
To drive service excellence – which is inextricably linked to asset value – property management teams must thoroughly understand how a building operates and the unique needs and qualities of the tenants and their patients. The significant responsibility of protecting the safety and well-being of visitors forms the basis of Transwestern’s patient-centric management approach.
Buildings are viewed from the patient’s perspective, using the five senses to assess a property. Does the facility look and smell clean? Are surfaces free of smudges, sanitized and safe to touch? Are there any disruptive noises?
A patient’s perception of their physician’s office starts when they park their car. Inspecting any touchpoints a patient may encounter from the parking lot or garage to their physician’s office, including sliding glass doors, door handles, stairwells, electronic directories, water fountains, and other common areas, is a way to identify and remedy issues quickly.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Regular communication and proactive inspections usually prevent minor issues from becoming major problems. Performing routine inspections keeps the building and tenant suites clean and ensures lights are working, the temperature is comfortable, and there are no leaks. Building managers can stay aware of any issues or challenges that impact service delivery by frequently communicating with tenants in person or via check-in email.
Technology, such as a work order system to track and manage work request trends and schedule and dispatch maintenance tasks, creates efficiencies and improves response times. Establishing protocols for immediately addressing urgent matters, such as a power outage, major water leak, or a fire/life safety issue, reinforces tenant confidence and decreases downtime.
Focus on Training
To effectively manage a medical office building, asset managers must understand this asset class's unique function and features beyond its physical components, like the leases and abstracts, certificates of insurance, and HIPAA exceptions that are unique to healthcare settings.
A commitment to capitalizing on the learning opportunities available – from training courses and certifications to healthcare conferences and medical journals -- gives asset managers and engineers a leg up, keeping them informed of regulatory updates related to patient safety, privacy, and any policy changes that may impact physicians.
When asset services teams prioritize best practices centered on proactive service, communication, and training, they protect the safety and well-being of building visitors and help ensure physician tenants can focus exclusively on their patients, confidently leaving facility operations and maintenance to their real estate services provider.
Nicole Foster works with Transwestern’s Healthcare Advisory Services group in Houston.
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