There’s no denying the growth of telehealth, virtual visits, remote health monitoring and mHealth apps in the healthcare landscape. But these growing technologies don’t replace the role of real estate in health, wellness and medical care.

Health care is a growing force in retail real estate, according to the ICSC, the acronym for the International Council of Shopping Centers, which has been spending time analyzing, in their words, “what landlords should know in eyeing tenants from a $3.5 trillion industry.”

Beyond the obvious retail clinic segment, the ICSC points out a key driving growth lever for its stakeholders, recognizing that, “The evolving status of patients as consumers represents a doorway for retailers and their landlords to enter health care.”

A report on Mixed-Use Properties: A Convenient Option for Shoppers notes that shopping centers are filling broader spectrum of consumer needs beyond, well, “shopping.”

The first chart illustrates U.S. adults’ interest in living in a mixed-use residential community to “live, work, shop and play.” Overall, over three-quarters of people would reside in this environment, led by 8 in 10 Millennials — and the trailing 7 in 10 Boomers age 66 to 73 years of age. Thus, the majority of Americans could see themselves living in a mixed-use community.

There’s demand among consumers to frequent shopping centers that provide fitness and wellness brick-and-mortar services, and medical care. The second chart shows consumers motivated to visit shopping centers by specific tenant types, which include retail (the obvious suspect and core business of a shopping center), followed by food and eating destinations, leisure and entertainment (think movies and cineplexes, betting shops), personal care, professional services, and the two health/care options.

Nearly one-half of consumers were motivated to take a trip to a shpping center for fitness/wellness. and 41% for medical care.

There are differences across generational cohort which are telling: a lower proportion of Boomers were motivated to go to a shopping center for fitness/wellness or medical care, compared to younger people — in particular, Millennials, whose interest for each sort of health/care exceeds the other generations (Gen X or Boomers).

However, even for Boomers, a plurality of folks were motivated to see fitness, wellness and care at the mall — 29% for the wellness services, and 31% for medical care.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  My book, HealthConsuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen, includes a chapter on “The New Retail Health” with a section exploring health/care real estate. In this chapter, I talk about the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute extending its central Boston reach into Chestnut Hill, Mass., co-locating a site with the Life Time Center fitness operation that is part of the “omni-fitness” trend. This is on the site of the former Atrium Mall.

Just as consumers live out omni-channel lives across communication platforms, screens and environments, omni-fitness speaks to a range of gyms, health and fitness clubs, and services. Consider traditional fitness centers; boutique fitness studios with personal and social opportunities baked in; yoga/cross-fit/spin/dance studios; and, other facilities like martial arts and gymnastics. Within these offerings, people can train in groups, in personal one-on-one sessions, and/or mix in interval training, functional fitness, et. al. 

The example of Dana-Farber is instructive, because ICSC points out that hospital affiliations can provide “greater overall tenant stability and credit ratings” for real estate landlords and developers compared to independent medical practices as a tenant.

As hospitals and other capital-intensive health care service providers seek to meet people where they live, work, play, pray and learn, siting care in the community will help to adapt to value-versus-volume payment regimes — and patients paying first-dollar in high-deductible health plans, seeking more retail-style, convenient service milieus.