Anthony Ferlan has been driven by an entrepreneurial spirit from his earliest days, and always knew he wanted to work with his hands—though he wasn’t sure he wanted to do the building himself.
In college, he was a personal assistant to a venture capitalist who worked with a lot of different companies. That led Ferlan to seek a career where he could work for an organization in which he could impact growth. Real estate, facility management, and building new sites fit the bill perfectly.
After graduating from Tufts University in 2013, he took a job as a managing associate for Dallas-based Mohr Partners and engaged with executive stakeholders across approximately 18 simultaneous transactions to work on growth objectives with a corporate real estate strategy.
“I was able to work with both small and large companies and learn what was important to them, which set me up for my future,” he says. “I saw that the mission-driven companies that hire by values were really successful.”
That was a selling point of joining Boston-based Iora Health, a health organization that strives to serve a vulnerable population and impact people’s lives and health for the better. “We are designed to serve seniors on Medicare, and these patients need us more than ever,” Ferlan states.
When he was hired at Iora in 2018, he was tasked with implementing a real estate management process and focused on evaluating markets and finding sites with opportunities for development. Today, as senior manager of corporate real estate, facilities, and procurement, his responsibilities are myriad.
“When I first started, I was focused exclusively on corporate real estate and facilities management, with everything from site selection to construction development to managing the facilities once it was open,” Ferlan explains. “I was probably traveling four out of five weeks a month, looking for new sites and doing the due diligence on sites.”
Once that step was completed, he would work with Iora’s Real Estate Committee on the approval process. Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic changed a great deal about this process.
“It shifted from being really transactional to being a lot more [focused on] systems and process building,” Ferlan notes. “Right at the beginning of the pandemic, I took on different procurement functions of the organization and became responsible for mak[ing] the facilities safe and [enabling] the teams to continue practicing safely.”
That meant getting the team vaccinated, equipping the facility to vaccinate patients, and building the processes and procedures around doing everything safely.
A big part of his job currently is expanding existing sites, adding team space and exam rooms—and doing so within the cost parameters allowed.
“Building out medical practices is definitely not cheap, so we’ve spent a lot of time evaluating the opportunities of expanding access to care,” Ferlan says. “Expanding the footprint of our practices has been an efficient way to bring in more patients while maintaining the integrity of the design program.”
That could mean building from the ground up, or finding an existing space in a shopping center and adding on to that. The goal is for capital to be deployed efficiently.
“We want to bring great healthcare to patients in their communities—in locations where they shop and live and work—so we go and look for locations that are in typically grocery-anchored shopping centers with a large senior population,” he says. “Once we find something that fits our size and dimension requirements, we’ll bring in our architectural partner and our general contractor to walk the space and tell us what we need to negotiate with the landlord.”
The space has to be accessible to its senior patients, so it’s designed with their needs in mind. According to Ferlan, that might mean railings in the hallways and ADA accessibility.
The pandemic has caused Ferlan to think about where and when Iora is growing, but now that the vaccine is being rolled out, he expects it to continue its historical fast growth.
Ferlan has reimagined Iora’s offices post-COVID, continuing to expand the company’s footprint while still reducing cost and staying true to the brand.
“We are still in the process of understanding what our practices are going to look like long-term,” he explains. “One of the biggest shifts we have seen is a big adoption of virtual care, even among our population of 65-plus, which has typically been averse to seeing a doctor over video. I expect us to incorporate some of the learning from the pandemic to optimize space for virtual care because we do see that as part of our care model long-term.”
Still, patients enjoy coming in, and face-to-face interaction is vital for many, so the design of any new space needs to keep this in mind.
“Our care model is really focused on building strong relationships with patients,” Ferlan says. “We know we can have an impact on health outcomes when we take the time to get to know them and learn about their lives. We feel the facility design is really a part of that experience.”