Medical moves: Satellite health facilities expand area hospitals’ reach

By Mike Lewis
Meritus Health’s new $15 million outpatient center near Maugansville, Md., which has an anticipated November or December opening, is one of several satellite medical facilities to be built in the Crossroads area in recent years.

Hospital organizations in the Crossroads area are offering an array of off-site services — from urgent and primary care to X-rays and specialized practices — as one way to adapt to the increasing need for, and expense of, health care.

On May 30, Summit Health broke ground on a $15 million, three-story, 45,000-square-foot medical office building in Greencastle, Pa. Meritus Health is working on a $15 million outpatient center north of Hagerstown, Md., anticipating a November or December opening. In early May, WVU Medicine opened a $13.5 million, 40,000-square foot medical building in Spring Mills, W.Va.

These additions are just the most recent in an expanding list of satellite health facilities in the area.

‘Best opportunity’

Maryland, unlike the 49 other states, follows an “all-payer” rate-setting system to help “control costs and ensure parity for those in need of care by ensuring that everyone pays the same price for the same service at the same hospital,” according to the Maryland Hospital Association website, mhaonline.org.

In place since the late 1970s, the setup means Maryland hospitals do not rely on patient volume for profit.

Dave Simon, communications manager for the Maryland Hospital Association, said the model encourages health-care officials to keep people out of hospitals.

“We are not beefing up for revenue — it’s actually the opposite,” Simon said, adding that hospitals have opted to increase care in other settings, such as satellite facilities.

He also said that since hospitals tend to have fixed costs other medical facilities do not, moving certain services can be financially beneficial for patients, as well.

With a focus on proactive care, such as wellness programs and advanced screenings, outpatient clinics often seek to better serve urgent care in underserved areas, said Meritus Health CEO Joe Ross.

“We spend more of our resources at the point of primary care because that’s our best opportunity to keep you from needing to be admitted to the hospital,” Ross said.

A new Meritus Family Medicine primary care practice, often referred to as the Walnut Street clinic, recently opened in downtown Hagerstown. It offers medical care for addiction-related conditions, as well. Ross said Meritus has also begun renovations in the Robinwood Professional Center for a family practice residency and has loose plans to look at a new primary care site on the Interstate 70 corridor.

Many patients face a variety of barriers when trying to get medical care or stay on their health-care plans, Ross said. Geography and transportation issues, for example, can limit access. Satellite facilities, he said, allow hospitals to bring the care to the patients.

‘Convenient locations’

Pennsylvania has seen a 5 percent rise in outpatient clinics since 2011, according to Julie Kissinger, vice president of communications and public affairs at the Pennsylvania Hospital Association. Kissinger attributed the increase, in part, to hospitals in the state complying with the Affordable Care Act’s call for a focus on preventive care and keeping patients out of the hospital, especially as readmissions.

She also said that despite the state’s two large urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania still has a lot of rural areas, making it more difficult for hospitals to “stay in the margins.” Satellite medical facilities, she said, can help keep costs in check.

Along with the upcoming Antrim Township office building, Summit Health has a number of medical facilities outside its two main campuses in Chambersburg, Pa., and Waynesboro, Pa., including Chambersburg Urgent Care, Shippensburg Urgent Care, Summit FastCare in Chambersburg, John L. Grove Medical Center in Greencastle, and Wayneboro Medical Office Building.

John Massimilla, Summit Health chief operating officer, said in an email the newest building being constructed off exit 3 of Interstate 81 “was an investment of our commitment in caring for members of the Greencastle community and surrounding areas.”

“Our goals really center around our patients,” he wrote. “We strive to offer them the care they need in convenient locations. We hope by bringing the services closer to where they live, getting the care they need is that much easier.”

He called it an extension of Summit’s vision of offering local comprehensive care.

“Over recent years, Summit Health has worked to make getting health care services more convenient and accessible. We have offices and locations throughout Franklin County, including Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Mercersburg, Waynesboro and Mont Alto, as well as locations in Cumberland and Fulton counties,” Massimilla said, noting Summit has no other facilities planned for 2018.

‘Areas of high growth’

Medical advances, evolving public policy and marketplace incentives have also lead to an increase of satellite facilities in the state, according to Tony Gregory, vice president of legislative affairs at the West Virginia Hospital Association.

“There’s a declining trend in hospital inpatient stays, so hospitals and health systems are having to shift their focus from filling hospital beds to providing more community-centered access to outpatient and ambulatory services,” Gregory said in an email. “With this in mind, there’s increasing emphasis to place access points in the communities where people live and work.

“In a population that’s grappling with diabetes, heart disease, COPD and obesity, West Virginia hospitals have focused on building an integrated network of outpatient centers through the region based on health needs.”

In 2012 and 2014, WVU Medicine opened satellite buildings in Inwood, W.Va., and Charles Town, W.Va., respectively. In January, it opened a new outpatient surgery center in Martinsburg, W.Va. The planned facility in Jefferson County is in Shepherdstown and will offer urgent and primary care.

Vice President of Marketing and Development Teresa McCabe, speaking on behalf of WVU Medicine East — which includes Berkeley Medical Center, Jefferson Medical Center and University Healthcare Physicians — said the placement of new facilities is aimed at convenience for consumers.

“In deciding where to locate our satellite medical facilities, we look at areas of high growth that we have determined to be underserved from a medical perspective,” McCabe wrote in an email. “For example, in Berkeley County, we know we have residents in the northern and southern parts of the county driving to Virginia and Maryland for health care services. So, we placed medical office buildings in both of those areas making it convenient for residents of Inwood and Spring Mills/Falling Waters to access health services when needed.”