Companies & People: Five questions for Tim Stanton

An HSA PrimeCare founding executive gains a new perspective after a near-death crisis

By John B. Mugford

Tim Stanton, center, at a stroke survivor walk with members of his family (from left to right): Joey, Kaleigh, Tim, his wife Tammy and Jack. (Photo courtesy of Tim Stanton)

Tim Stanton has been with Chicago-based HSA PrimeCare, the healthcare division of HSA Commercial and its billion-dollar portfolio, from the get-go.

Since the company launched the healthcare arm in the mid-1990s, Mr. Stanton has been an integral part of building the division and its client base. He’s done so alongside the likes of John Wilson, the president; Bob Titzer, another executive VP; and other members of the group.

The firm was launched at a time when health systems were first learning what experienced, third-party commercial real estate firms such as HSA PrimeCare could offer  them in terms of providing capital solutions, managing their properties professionally, leasing up their medical office building (MOB) space, developing the right facilities in the right locations and advising them on ways to help grow their businesses.

The success of HSA PrimeCare is evidenced by its body of work, as the firm has developed, provided leasing services for and managed more than 2 million square feet of MOBs and outpatient facilities for many of the Midwest’s largest and strongest health systems, hospitals and group practices.

That list of providers includes Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Health, Mishawaka, Ind.-based Franciscan Alliance, Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health and Milwaukee-based Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, as well as many individual hospitals including Silver Cross in New Lenox, Ill., Loyola University Medical Center in the Chicago suburbs, St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis and St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor, Mich.

All was well for Mr. Stanton, as life and work were full steam ahead – right up until one summer day in July, 2016 when everything changed, including his perspective on what the healthcare system and the facilities through which care is delivered can, and should be able to, accomplish.

Below is the chronicle of Mr. Stanton’s harrowing experience and what has happened to him since then.

1) Please start by talking about your own health issue, the stroke? It must have been a very difficult, scary time for you.

On July 5, 2016, I was a perfectly healthy 52-year-old man. I sailed, skied, biked, coached baseball and football, played tennis, and had just expanded my membership at a local club to full golf privileges. To say I was active was an understatement.

On the morning of July 6, 2016, I found myself in the hospital after suffering a massive stroke, unable to walk, talk, swallow or even breathe on my own.

The doctors told my wife I was not going to live, suggesting that she call my family members to come to the hospital. She called a friend of ours who is a neurosurgeon and his wife who is a neurologist, and they were able to contact the neurologist on staff at the hospital. Thankfully, they convinced him to give me a tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) that could help dissolve the stroke effects. Typically, the protocol for giving someone this drug was that the patient could not be too far along, so to speak, in their stroke. The logic was that if they did nothing I would die or end up in a vegetative state, so why not try something since the alternatives weren’t any better? Luckily for me, it worked.

I spent the next 30 days in the hospital doing daily rehabilitation, and the following five months at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab for seven hours per day, five days per week. (Note: The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago is a “translational” research hospital where clinicians, scientists and technologists work together in applying research to provide medical care and rehabilitation services to patients.)

2) How has what you’ve gone through since the stroke affected your work and how you go about your job in healthcare real estate? Do you think you make different decisions today than you did before the stroke?

After much post-stroke soul-searching, I have found new ways to contribute to the business I love so much. I have started to understand that my personal experience with the healthcare system shaped my belief that we in the healthcare real estate space must adopt the same attitude of the doctors, nurses and therapists: be patient-focused.

Although we have always approached the development, management, leasing and ownership of healthcare facilities with the patient in mind, I have been able to heighten our team’s awareness of our ultimate responsibility to the healthcare providers in our buildings and their patients. Our job is to do everything and anything that provides an environment that will help patients get well. We need to understand and anticipate the needs of the patient, their caregivers and families. Having lived it, I can help the HSA PrimeCare team incorporate this vision into its work.

3) The healthcare industry and healthcare real estate sectors are in constant flux. Currently, there is some concern that there isn’t as much of a place for third-party firms in today’s environment, as many health systems are occupying most of the space in their MOBs and might be looking to buy properties instead of leasing them. Are you finding this to be true and, again, how does your unique perspective affect how you work with clients in this regard?

The one constant in the healthcare industry is change. As a provider of real estate services, our role has always been one based on our over 20-year commitment to this space, as well as our understanding of the unique needs of healthcare providers.

One major change has been the evolution of the patient as a consumer. Patients today evaluate not just the quality of the practitioner, but also the location, convenience, and the ancillary services and amenities of the service provider and the facility in which they operate.

While in the hospital, I had the choice to either stay where I was or be moved to another hospital with a strong reputation for its care of stroke patients. I decided to stay, as I was already experiencing a high quality of care, and this hospital was closer to home, which was equally important to me at the time. I strongly believe that having my family and friends close by and easily able to visit was pertinent to my recovery.

When the time came to move from inpatient hospital rehabilitation to outpatient rehab, I had a similar decision to make, and again I prioritized location and proximity to my family over reputation. It is these types of choices that differentiate today’s patients from the patients of the past, and this is what healthcare providers are learning to navigate. This new, consumer-oriented patient is driving healthcare systems to take a more holistic approach when evaluating the services they provide and the manner in which they are provided, which ultimately benefits the patient.

While the needs of each system and hospital are unique, they all appreciate HSA PrimeCare’s long-term commitment not just to this space, but also to understanding the complexities of each system, hospital and transaction. They also trust our ability to develop a solution that meets and, we hope, exceeds their needs.

4) Years ago, healthcare developers, for the most part, were in the business of satisfying their clients’ needs. i.e., getting a project done on time and on budget. Today, firms such as yours also need to consider the perspective of the patient, now more fully recognized as a “consumer.” Please talk a bit about this.

What I hope to bring to our team is the ability to see things from the perspective of the patient – their patient. This is the key: to try to internalize what it’s like for the patient. A good management team will be sure to salt the parking lot and walkways, but a patient-focused management team that sees things through the patients’ eyes will salt and take the extra steps to make sure it’s safe. I told our staff a story about how I was visiting a doctor and, as I made my way into the building, I came upon an ice patch. I literally stopped in my tracks; I couldn’t see an easy way around the ice, but I also was very aware that I didn’t want others to see me struggle. I didn’t want to look scared. It’s important to understand how much a patient’s environment can affect them. Our goal is to anticipate patients’ needs and provide an environment that encourages healing.

5) How and why is HSA growing? What areas are strong for the company?

Both HSA Commercial and HSA PrimeCare have experienced tremendous growth in the last several years. Our approach is similar across the board; we try to understand our clients, or a particular market’s needs, and respond with solutions that exceed expectations. This sounds quite simple, but I have found that the art of listening and the ability to internalize what you’ve heard before you respond has become the exception rather than the norm.

I believe this approach to real estate has served our company well since its inception in 1981 and will continue to help us be a preeminent provider of long-term, partner-based real estate solutions and services.

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