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Aspect Health modernizes, brings human touch to ‘sterile’ healthcare facilities in CT, beyond
Oct 3, 2022
When it comes to health care, “sterile” and “cold” are the words that spring to mind when imagining the space where patients receive care and doctors administer it.
Aspect Health is working to improve the atmosphere at healthcare facilities, whether it is making sure a waiting room is inviting, or a technician has access to natural light.
Christopher Smith is CEO of Westport-based Aspect Health, a real estate development and advisory firm that focuses on the healthcare industry and offers services that range from site selection, design, development and construction, to acquisition, property and asset management.
The company, which focuses largely on the Northeast market, has seen growth opportunities in Connecticut as more care providers invest in new facilities, or modernize existing ones by making them more patient and staff friendly, or adding safety features following the pandemic.
The company has completed or is underway with 10 projects in Connecticut spanning approximately 275,000 square feet.
“We are seeing more and more demand for medical office buildings that provide a concierge-level healthcare experience,” said Smith. “We are seeing more opportunities in this state to serve the needs of the community and attract top-tier healthcare providers so that patients won’t have to travel outside of Connecticut.”
Patient, staff needs
Aspect Health partners with a variety of health systems, like hospitals, orthopedic practices and other providers from Boston to Philadelphia. The company also plans, develops and manages build-to-suit facilities for its partners and seeks opportunities to recapitalize and redevelop buildings in the Northeast.
For example, in West Nyack, New York, Aspect Health broke ground in March on a new orthopedic center for Montefiore Orthopedics and Montefiore Nyack Hospital.
Smith touts an extensive background in real estate and hospitality development and management. His experience in the healthcare industry began when he and his brother co-founded Maplewood Senior Living in 2005. During that time, he noticed shortfalls in the healthcare industry when it came to how real estate and spaces were planned and used.
By 2015, Smith and his team began working on the first build-to-suit property for kidney dialysis company Davita.
“When we began working on that project, we realized that we could differentiate ourselves from others by taking into account patient and staff needs and experience,” Smith said.
In 2020, Maplewood Healthcare got a new name — Aspect Health, employing a core team of 12 that oversees projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Smith’s first Greater New Haven project is currently underway. The company purchased and is rehabbing a 21,000-square-foot medical office building in Stratford at 2909 Main St.
“We took a medical office building that had a lot of deferred maintenance and functional obsolescence and improved on that,” Smith said. “We also redesigned the exterior, with improved parking and signage and common areas and bathrooms that are fully upgraded and renovated. This building that is 20 years old will look brand new,” said Smith.
Aspect Health is also working on a redevelopment project at 33 Hospital Ave. in Danbury, which will deliver a Neuroscience Institute for hospital operator Nuvance Health, which owns Danbury, New Milford and Norwalk hospitals. This is in addition to a two-story, 20,850-squarefoot Class A medical office building it is developing in Bethel.
Working with stakeholders
One of the first steps to creating a project plan, according to Smith, is to meet with stakeholders — everyone from CFOs and board members to physicians.
“If you don’t understand the needs of all the stakeholders, it’s difficult to navigate the system, or the hospital,” said Smith.
Recent projects have, of course, taken COVID into consideration, explains Smith, adding that the atmosphere can be sterile without being cold.
“We’ve worked on creating a more germ-free experience — from air conditioning system filtration, to creating a touchless system, which includes adding pedals on elevators and implementing technology on doors so individuals can enter without touching them,” he said.
Smith and his team even advise on signage regarding hand-washing and other common activities.
Additional improvements to traditional medical office layouts can include larger lounges for physicians and staff to be “off stage,” as Smith terms it, along with collaborative areas near windows. The more sunlight available in all areas, the better.
In retrofits, Aspect Health has been known to recommend furniture upgrades for the comfort of staff, patients and caregivers.
David Greenfield, who works as a healthcare development advisor with Aspect Health, previously owned his own large healthcare practice, a background that has helped when interacting with physicians to determine their needs.
“I speak their language in delivering patient care,” said Greenfield. “We want everyone to be happy in their physical environment, knowing how very difficult it is to find and keep medical staff.”
As for the future, Smith said he foresees many opportunities in Connecticut.
“Most of the buildings we develop, or redevelop, are speculative builds and each time we complete a project, they lease up with top-tier providers who want to deliver a best-in-class healthcare experience. We’re proud to be a part of that,” he said.
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