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The mall at the hospital


Chain Store Age posted a story about Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital opening a new 70,000-sq.-ft. retail store and restaurant development in the hospital and across the campus.

The story makes the point that hospitals are untapped growth areas for retailers. Hospitals employ large numbers of people, care for large numbers of outpatients and welcome large numbers of family members visiting inpatients. Hospitals are also set amidst office buildings with large daytime populations.

If an office building can install retail stores and restaurants on the ground floor, why can’t hospitals?

In fact, hospitals are doing just that: In Montgomery, Ohio, Christ Hospital’s new outpatient center will soon see a 70,000-sq.-ft. retail and restaurant development break ground next door.

In Nashville, Vanderbilt Health has leased about half of the 850,000-sq.-ft. One Hundred Oaks shopping mall.

It seems to me that two trends are converging here. On the healthcare side, the Affordable Care Act will require healthcare providers to treat more patients — the 40 million or so Americans that must now buy health insurance. At the same time, the providers will receive less in fees. The law reduces payments to physicians and hospitals under some programs such as Medicare.

So healthcare institutions must build facilities that are easy for patients to find and get to, while growing more efficient in providing care.

Shopping center locations — almost always easily accessible — can funnel lots of prospective patients past healthcare facilities day in and day out. And when a customer gets the flu, he or she will know that medical help is as close as the local shopping center.

On the retail side of the equation, retailers have discovered the benefits of taking retail to places where people congregate: airports, train stations, mixed-use centers with office and residential components. Now healthcare facilities are part of retail destinations.

What’s the next big retail location idea?

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