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Co-Working Drives Innovation in Medical Office Buildings

Flexible workspaces have become quite ubiquitous over the last several years as the idea of traditional office hours has been replaced with remote work and companies choose to minimize their overhead and maximize their flexibility. What used to catering to freelancers and other independent or remote workers has now become an alternative to companies who may not want or need a fully leased office.

WeWork and other providers like it offer stylish, amenity-laden co-working spaces that provide conference and meeting spaces, break rooms complete with coffee and catered lunches, and a suite of technology and tools. This enables teams of any size to take advantage of office perks without having to lease unnecessary space.

But can a similar model work with doctors’ offices?

When you go into a doctor’s office, whether its a private practice or a larger medical group, the features are usually the same: a waiting room, an administrative desk, a nurse’s station, exam and procedure rooms and then the physician’s private office. Each of these spaces contains the necessary equipment for exams and procedures and the appropriate storage for that equipment.

Most, if not all of these features are standard, you can’t really run a medical practice without them. Which means a physician who wants to start their own private practice better be prepared to pay up front for all of these things. Believe me, that cost is not insignificant. On top of the upfront investment physicians face the possibility of debt accruing as they gradually build up a patient base. These costs and the stress of mounting debt have been shown to be one of the biggest deterrents to opening a private practice.

Another stumbling block is matching the facility to the physician’s specific preferences. Just like any entrepreneur, a physician starting a private practice has a vision for how they want that practice to operate. They might have an idea of paint colors for the waiting room and an area of town they might want to be in, but they also know what days and hours they want to be open, the kinds of procedures they want to be able to perform in-office, the kind of staffing they’ll need to execute their vision.

Some may not have as specific an idea of these things, but they at least have a general philosophy. The point is, they want the independence and autonomy to run things how they see fit instead of being beholden to a hospital or university medical group. Not to mention, few medical offices available for lease are going to automatically meet those requirements without time, money and effort spent remodeling and installing the specific machines and equipment needed for their particular field or specialty.

Flexible, shared office spaces can help these physicians achieve their unique visions for their private practices without the upfront investment of outfitting a complete office space. Taking the shared model into the world of medicine is a new idea, but the principle is similar. Instead of open concept offices with sleek designs, high-speed internet and upscale meeting areas, these spaces offer flexible designs that can cater to different tenant physicians whenever they are using the space, as well as onsite administrative support and staffing.

The physician can utilizes a mobile app to select from a pre-determined set of options, from office hours to staffing to the number of exam and procedure rooms, with completely transparent pricing. If they only want to be open three days a week while they build a customer base, they can opt to occupy the space for just those three days, without paying rent or staffing for the other days (on those other days, another physician might use the space and staff to ensure that the resources are maximized). Later, when they’re ready to expand, they can opt for more days and hours.

Administrative kiosks are set up in the office, which can be customized to each physician’s unique staff and their preferences. Simple interfaces ensure that there is no downtime between physician tenants and all information is kept secure in accordance with HIPAA regulations. There are also onsite mailboxes so that physicians can still use a shared space as their primary mailing address.

The shared model also offers physicians access to upscale amenities and highly sought after locations, as the expense of these things is shared among the tenants. Plush, luxurious waiting rooms for patients and plenty of perks for staff are included. And physicians get the opportunity to cater to a larger and potentially wealthier patient base in neighborhoods they might have been priced out of on their own.

From a patient standpoint, these spaces resemble any multi-service medical practice, with no idea that the physician doesn’t have sole occupancy. Patient care is always left up to the physicians and their staff, but these kinds of office spaces provide all of the infrastructure and support they need so they can focus on their patients and their own personal lives instead of the stress of running their practice.

Flexible workspaces, in general, make up about 5 percent of global office inventory today, according to a recent report from JLL, but that number is expected to rise to 30 percent in the coming years, as more and more industries recognize that sharing the burden of expense means they can have higher end workspaces and cater to a higher caliber of talent and customers.

The world of healthcare and medicine could change the way it approaches private practice entirely by taking advantage of these kinds of flexible workspaces and helping shape the model to their unique needs and attract more physicians to private practice by reducing the stress and hassles of opening and operating.

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