Leading health systems are reorganizing and consolidating their services to make it easier for consumers to stay healthy.
When Lee Health Coconut Point opens south of Fort Myers, Fla., next year, patients will be able to visit a physician, undergo a cardiac stress test, and get an ultrasound on the same day—without moving their car or registering for each service separately.
They can pick up prescriptions at the retail pharmacy on their way to the Healthy Life Center, which offers education about medical conditions and help with physician referrals for outpatient surgery and rehabilitation.
Focusing particularly on South Florida’s seniors, many of whom have multiple health conditions, Lee Health seeks to replace “fend-for-yourself” medicine with proactive assistance that allows patients to make wise use of healthcare resources.
“Even though this service is provided in a retail setting, we will have schedulers on-site to actually help people gain access to care versus leaving them to navigate the system for themselves,” says Kevin Newingham, Lee Health’s chief strategy officer.
Meanwhile, in Kingston, N.Y., primary care, behavioral health, and other support services—including health-oriented retail, educational programs, and community events—will coalesce at a medical village being developed by HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley and its parent, Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). Joshua Ratner, WMCHealth’s senior vice president for network strategy, likens the project to a shopping mall designed to make healthy living easy.
“If you are in the local community, you’ll have the ability to walk to our medical village, see your primary care physician, maybe pick up a healthy shake, and have access to all sorts of support services,” he says.
While the two projects differ in many ways—Lee Health is reacting to demand for healthcare services in a fast-growing community; HealthAlliance is repurposing a hospital building—they both are responding to consumers’ desire for “one-stop shopping” for healthcare services.
Catering to the Customer
As consumerism gains traction in health care, many health systems are beginning to borrow the imperatives of the retail industry, including convenience and customer service, to remake their operations. It can’t happen fast enough to suit Jon Burroughs, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Burroughs Healthcare Consulting Network.
For the most part, he says, “everything still revolves around the needs of the physician and the hospital, despite all the patient-centered rhetoric.”
Using a suspicious breast lump as an example, he rattles off the many steps—a visit to a primary care physician; referrals to various specialists; multiple images ordered by multiple physicians, with the patient often relaying information from one provider to the next—before a treatment plan gets started. No one can call it consumer-friendly.
“Convenience means different things to different people—available when I need it, easy to get to, other people handle the complexity, no worries about records getting lost,” Burroughs says. “What it does not mean is going to a lot of different providers and being billed by each one.”
Healthy Life in Florida
Clustering services in a compact space is one step toward consumer-oriented convenience, Burroughs says, and Lee Health Coconut Point is putting that approach into practice.
“This is taking it beyond co-location of services to coordinate services in a different way than we do now,” says Dave Cato, Lee Health’s chief administrative officer for outpatient services.
Anchored by an emergency department and urgent care center, the 163,000-square-foot facility will include units for observation, outpatient surgery, radiology, laboratory, and rehabilitation, along with a breast health center and a pharmacy. Both primary care and specialty physicians will be on hand.
The Healthy Life Center at Coconut Point, already in operation, will be relocated to the new facility to serve as a hub that supports healthy lifestyles, early detection of disease, and chronic disease management. The center provides screenings—cardiovascular, memory, balance, and fitness, among others—and educational programs on nutrition, integrative medicine, sleep, and other topics.
“We don’t just see ourselves as providing sick care,” Newingham says. “One of our big areas of focus is the overall health and wellness of our population.”
The concept for Lee Health Coconut Point came from extensive interaction with community leaders in southern Lee County, which has experienced significant population growth that is expected to continue during the next 10 years. Because of that, Lee Health expects the project to generate a positive ROI on its own, without counting referrals that will be made to the organization’s hospitals.
The community leaders originally expressed interest in a new hospital, and the project is designed to possibly accommodate one in the future.
“We pulled together a group comprised of internal folks, but also community representatives and physicians from a wide number of specialties, to talk about what they would want to see in the new center, in terms of how it might function differently from traditional healthcare facilities and the types of programs and services to include,” Cato says. “It was through that collaborative process that the project that we’re pursuing emerged.”
Healthy Community in New York
In the Hudson Valley, HealthAlliance is also using community input to plan its medical village in Kingston. That project, stemming from a merger of two hospitals and the need to reduce unnecessary inpatient capacity, offers the opportunity to think about health in a much larger context.
“We’re taking this investment that’s come from the state and really leveraging it to elevate the overall health of our community,” Ratner says.
He’s referring to nearly $89 million HealthAlliance received, through a competitive process, from the state Department of Health as part of its Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program. That money will support the renovation and expansion of HealthAlliance’s Mary’s Avenue hospital and the redeployment of its Broadway Campus into a medical village that includes primary care, behavioral health services, outpatient rehabilitative care, and other support services.
By grouping the services that outpatients need, the medical village will facilitate care navigation.
“If I were to go to the third floor and see a primary care physician, and then I need to go to the first floor for physical therapy, there can be a ‘warm’ hand-off so I’m not starting from scratch when I go from one to the other,” Ratner says.
Other tenants are expected to flock to the high-profile location near Kingston’s city center. Ratner believes the area’s federally qualified health center, which occupies space in the hospital, will expand its footprint, with community-based behavioral health service organizations also joining.
“Many of the behavioral health patients that we see in our emergency department really should be seen in a primary care physician’s office or in an outpatient behavioral health clinic,” he says. “This will be a better environment for those patients—it’s less expensive, and it’s really the right way to deliver care so that we can coordinate care more closely around behavioral health services.”
The medical village will be built out over several years as the Mary’s Avenue hospital expansion and renovation creates space for the inpatients currently cared for at the Broadway hospital. Ratner sees other entities wanting to be part of a medical village because they look at health holistically.
In fact, the county government has expressed interest in placing some services, such as a transportation hub and job training and placement services for at-risk individuals, in the village. Both jobs and transportation access are associated with improved health status, thus fitting in with HealthAlliance’s vision for a health-oriented village.
“And we’re looking to expand access to healthy foods,” Ratner says. “So we’re really looking at a full spectrum of offerings.”
Interviewed for this article:
Jonathan Burroughs, MD, MBA, FACHE, president and CEO, Burroughs Healthcare Consulting Network; Dave Cato, chief administrative officer outpatient services, Lee Health, Fort Myers, Fla.; Kevin Newingham, chief strategy officer, Lee Health, Fort Myers, Fla.; Joshua Ratner, senior vice president for network strategy, Westchester Medical Center Health Network, Valhalla, N.Y.