By Jill | Editorial
In April 2014, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, noted a major milestone. More than 8 million Americans signed up for health insurance. The newly insured joined the ranks of 75 million aging baby boomers expected to increase demand on clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities across the nation.
The ACA is transitioning healthcare focus from volume-based care to value-based care. This means health facilities will be reducing costs by moving a larger share of care delivery to outpatient clinics. Inpatient facilities will be reserved for the chronically ill and more complex cases.
In November 2013, a survey of 500 hospital and health care executives by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering showed that 51 percent were considering changes to existing healthcare facilities. The major focus for hospitals was expanding into communities by moving care into medical offices. Responding to the ACA, about one-quarter of executives said they were planning medical office expansion while 16 percent were constructing new medical office buildings. Around 17 percent said their agenda included the expansion of ambulatory surgery centers. Kirk Hamilton, professor of architecture at Texas A&M University, commented on the trend: “Hospitals are investing in outpatient care instead of inpatient care. This is the first time I can remember seeing so little in high-tech investment in the hospital. I think the shift in focus is a big story.”
By increasing the number of outpatient facilities for the newly insured, hospitals are hoping to reduce waiting time and relieve overcrowding at emergency rooms.
The focus on outpatient facilities stands in stark contrast to the outlook for new hospital construction, which ground to a halt during the last recession. Only 20 percent of the executives surveyed said they were definitely planning to build new hospitals. However, there is bright news for the medtech industry. Even aging facilities are planning to purchase expensive new technology to remain competitive with the ACA’s focus on patient satisfaction. With the lawsuits seemingly settled and the ACA the law of the land, most hospitals have the funds to proceed with new equipment purchases and outpatient clinic projects.