TAMPA — A structure is rising near Brandon that represents more than just a convenient place for residents of east Hillsborough to see a doctor.
Tampa General Hospital’s healthplex on Palm River Road, set to open around February 2017, symbolizes a monumental shift in U.S. health care, as big legacy hospitals shift treatment out into the communities they serve. Around the nation, hospitals are opening new off-campus facilities, from full-scale service centers to urgent care centers to stand-alone emergency departments.
“We’re trying to respond to that by having facilities like this where we can dedicate our ambulatory care and separate it from inpatient care and provide it more conveniently, accessibly and in a more comfortable setting,” said Mark Anderson, Tampa General’s senior vice president for ambulatory services. “We’re trying to respond to that by being able to put physicians’ offices and healthplexes like this out into the neighborhoods.”
The Brandon healthplex will have 130,000 square feet in four stories. It is being developed by Landmark Healthcare Facilities on TGH land at a cost of $60 million — roughly half for brick and mortar, half for equipment — and will be leased to Tampa General. The staff will be Tampa General employees.
It will have a specialty care center, a women’s center, a pediatric center, an emergency center, an ambulatory surgery center, imaging, a pharmacy and primary care and specialty physicians.
A University of South Florida health care expert calls the strategy a “hub and spoke model” and said it’s a growing trend for a couple of reasons.
“One is the obvious customer service advantage where people want care as close to home as possible without suffering any decrease in quality,” said Dr. Ed Funai, vice president and chief operating officer of USF Health.
Another is cost. Health care providers are under tremendous pressure from payers to provide low-cost care, he said. Outpatient centers offer cost benefits because building codes and infrastructure requirements are less restrictive than at acute-care hospitals. They are more affordable to construct and maintain, have lower overhead costs and can be built quicker.
BayCare Health System, which has 14 hospitals in the Tampa Bay and central Florida area, is also on board with outpatient care expansion. Baycare has four ambulatory surgical centers, seven urgent care centers and 13 imaging facilities along with clinics and fitness centers.
“When I think of the trend, and why you’re seeing this, it’s that health care in general is becoming a lot more retail-focused and focused on the consumer,” said James Cote, senior vice president for ambulatory services at the Clearwater-based system. “What we’re trying to do now is move things together so patients can get all their services in one location, to make it a destination for them.”
That also means convenient locations and expanded office hours, he said. “We’re now focusing on the consumer with a really busy lifestyle.”
The days of most surgery and many medical and diagnostic procedures requiring an inpatient hospital stay appear to be over. In 2014, the latest year records are available, there were 555,000 inpatient surgeries performed in the state, according to the Florida Hospital Association. There were 1.4 million outpatient surgeries.
Moody’s Investors Service reported in 2013 that ambulatory service centers’ same-location revenues have been growing in the low- to mid-single digits since 2007, while hospitals have seen inpatient surgery cases decline 0.2 percent annually. In the 1990s, outpatient care made up 10 to 15 percent of hospital revenue; today it’s over 50 percent.
That’s not to say that what Funai called “the mothership” is going away anytime soon.
Tampa General is the area’s only Level 1 trauma center and one of just three burn centers in Florida. It is home to one of the leading organ transplant centers in the country and is a nationally certified comprehensive stroke center.
The Davis Islands main campus would still be a destination for patients in the TGH system requiring a higher level of care. “If they need to be referred to the hospital, they can be referred to the hospital,” Anderson said.
But the so-called “healthplexes” will continue to be a part of the model. Anderson said Tampa General is looking at other sites, including the former Ferman Automotive lot on Kennedy Boulevard.
“As our ambulatory care market grows, we want to be responsive,” Anderson said. “We certainly are looking at and thinking of doing other locations.”