June 2, 2021
DOC’s commitment to building healthier communities shines in a year of challenges
As we reflect on 2020, the dominant themes are inescapably clear: a global pandemic, coupled with a global movement to drive meaningful change on issues of injustice, inequality, and systemic racism. These complex issues amplified the injustices and inequities that have long existed in our communities, shining a harsh light on the challenges we will continue to face well beyond this historic year.
Through these challenges, Physicians Realty Trust forged forward by recognizing that while these are complex issues, they are, first and foremost, human issues. We did so by valuing people – our team members, our health care partners, our shareholders, and ultimately, the communities in which we serve.
Early detection can be critical in health care, and our team worked quickly and diligently to stay ahead of the curve at the onset of the pandemic. Our first tenant-facing communication was distributed in January 2020, and as the virus evolved, our team spearheaded new strategies to address both property and corporate communications. As the first COVID-19 cases emerged in our markets in early March, DOC established a COVID-19 Task Force to review and enforce operational procedures. This team quickly implemented enhanced cleaning procedures at each of our properties to support a safe environment for our partners and their patients.
As the pandemic progressed, DOC communicated extensively with our health care partners and our entire operations team, including an informational webinar featuring DOC Board of Trustees member William A. Ebinger, M.D. We also released a tenant-facing COVID-19 Health Care Facility Operations Plan for our partners and tenants. To further support these efforts, our Executive Vice President of Asset Management, Mark Theine, joined the Nashville Health Care Council COVID-19 Readiness Team, which was formed to publish bi-weekly subject matter expertise on the latest operational best practices to manage the pandemic.
“While no one could be completely prepared for the challenges 2020 presented, we’ve built an incredibly experienced team that was exceptionally qualified to meet the moment,” Theine noted. “Even as information and circumstances continued to evolve at a rapid pace, our team stayed resolute in our commitment to our partners and communities.”
Due to the rapidly changing environment in each of our markets, we recognized the need for a heightened response from DOC’s property management and facility operations teams, and we worked quickly to publish an internal COVID-19 Building Readiness Manual. This document details comprehensive procedures, including janitorial frequency and product selection, scheduling and use of PPE for essential employees, social distancing, signage in building common areas and elevators, air filtration, and management of construction activities.
By helping our health care providers get adequately supplied with personal protective equipment and establish clear protocols for cleaning and social distancing, we were able to get our outpatient care facilities fully open quickly, and, in many cases, operating with expanded hours. This flexibility allowed our health care partners to dedicate critical resources to pandemic care by transitioning non COVID-19 services to off-campus facilities like those owned by DOC.
Like many businesses facing COVID-19 disruptions, some of our tenants experienced hardships, and DOC was quick to offer an array of resources. Throughout the pandemic, we have been steadfast in our responsibility to our tenants, not just to provide safe environments for patient care, but to ensure that our partners have the financial resources to persevere through these challenging times.
Before the initial federal CARES Act was even passed, we established the DOC CARES program to assess tenant rent requests as a joint effort of our leasing, operations, credit, and finance teams. In doing so, DOC retained two different consultants active in medical practice management and the SBA process. Then, on a case-by-case basis, we connected tenants with these resources for assistance in applying for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Medicare grants.
These consultants provided services, free of charge, to our tenants as they navigated the necessary paperwork for their applications. For tenants who pursued the PPP loan, other medical assistance, and additional sources of liquidity, we remained in communication while they sourced working capital to pay rent and operate their businesses with the assistance of these programs.
As Amy Hall, DOC’s Senior Vice President of Leasing & Physician Strategy, shared, “The pandemic provided an opportunity for us to reach out to our partners in new ways to showcase the ‘DOC Difference’ and truly be empathetic in our response. We were able to work with our partners—one person, one practice, and one health system at a time.”
As a direct result of these efforts, DOC collected cash equaling well over 99% of all rent and other charges due from our tenants during the 2020 calendar year. These results are a testament to the resiliency of the medical office building asset class and the high-quality portfolio we have built, as well as the strong and supportive relationships we have cultivated with our health care partners.
“Our rent relief and collection efforts in 2020 were truly a team undertaking, conducted in seamless coordination with members of our asset and property management teams, leasing team, credit team, and accounts receivable team,” Theine added. “We are truly proud of both the results we delivered to our shareholders and the assistance we were able to provide to our health care partners.”
"During a very challenging time, DOC has consistently been on the front end of communication with all of our clinic staff and has taken care of extra sanitizing needs with lightning speed. The flow of helpful information from DOC was consistent, and our needs for lobby screening and mobile testing units were always accommodated swiftly. The response from DOC during this time has been utterly astounding."
— Elizabeth Stockstill | Property Manager for CommonSpirit Health, Texas Market