Questioning the value of the “medical mall”

The concept of the “medical mall” is not new. Health systems and physician groups have long looked to build larger outpatient facilities that include several physician specialties, diagnostics, and outpatient procedure all under one roof—sometimes even converting defunct shopping malls. But recently some providers have questioned whether this “one stop shop” approach is delivering the value expected.

One CFO shared, the cost to build and operate these large facilities can be daunting: “we had two of these in our capital plan, but the real estate and construction costs are enormous. Given where margins are this year, we just couldn’t justify them.” 
Others have also questioned whether their medical malls provide the value they anticipated. Another leader noted that “it seemed to make sense to put 15 primary care docs under one roof, which let us co-locate a host of other services. But patients told us they’d rather have primary care close to home. And a more distributed ‘low-key’ footprint might have been cheaper.” He also mentioned their operations fell short of the vision: “just because we have primary care and CT under one roof, doesn’t mean we can get a patient on the scanner right after their appointment.”

A physician group with two medical malls found that while they expected the vision to appeal to busy, commercially-insured patients, “it turned out that people with transportation issues or a lot of chronic conditions were the ones who chose to go there…it ended up being primarily a public-pay population, and we can’t support the cost.”

Consumers have rejected shopping malls for more distributed and technology-driven retail options. Given the cost of the medical mall, it’s worth considering whether they’ll apply the same logic to healthcare. 

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