MetroHealth Invests in Community-Based Centers to Transform Care Delivery

Cleveland-based MetroHealth is an academic health center with 17 locations in Cuyahoga County and more than 400 primary care and specialty care physicians. On May 9, it broke ground on the $23 million MetroHealth Middleburg Heights November Family Health Center — the first of four new suburban health centers designed to bring care closer to patients. The new 57,000-square-foot facility will replace a 9,000-square-foot center in Strongsville, Ohio, which is at capacity. William R. Lewis, MD, chief of clinical cardiology, chairman of the market development campaign and leader of MetroHealth's network expansion initiative, explains how the new health centers are part of the health system's strategy to transform the delivery of care.

Bringing care close to home

As hospitals are under pressure to reduce readmissions and healthcare costs, many services are shifting to an outpatient setting. In line with this trend, MetroHealth is offering more outpatient options to increase patients' access to care and to reach communities beyond those near the system's main campus. "We are being very patient centric in this endeavor," Dr. Lewis says. "We think from the perspective of a patient: What would you want to have delivered in your local community?"

MetroHealth surveyed members of the community to learn about their needs as well as to capture their demographic information. This data helped the system plan where to offer care and what services to provide. "We found that patients want as much of their care delivered locally as they can get," Dr. Lewis says. To meet this demand, MetroHealth is reconfiguring itself as a system of several medium-sized suburban health centers framing a larger hospital rather than a centralized main urban campus with small satellites.

The community-based health centers are also designed to improve efficiency and quality. "We felt strongly that with healthcare reform, the way we deliver healthcare is going to change dramatically over the next several years," Dr. Lewis says. "Most healthcare in a lot of systems is delivered in major hospitals and in downtown facilities. We feel that high quality care can be efficiently delivered in the community where people live." For example, he says certain services, such as physical therapy and rehabilitation, are more convenient for patients when offered locally because patients typically need these services several times a week.

Providing more services in the outpatient centers will free up some room for the main hospital to create efficiencies. MetroHealth is planning to rebuild the entire main campus by 2020. For example, Dr. Lewis says if the health center performs six stress tests a day, the main hospital will most likely not need to perform as many. "We believe the new location is going to attract new patients, but we will also gain some efficiencies by moving [some services] off the main campus," he says.

Expanding MetroHealth Select
Building more community-based centers is also part of a strategy to expand the system's health plan, MetroHealth Select. The plan is offered to public employees and provides access to quality care at a low premium. MetroHealth's growth in the community allows more people to take advantage of the plan.

Participation in the plan has been increasing steadily over the past few years, with a jump to nearly double enrollment last year, according to Dr. Lewis. "People are flocking to this plan because they can get high quality care performed more efficiently. We have to make sure that county employees, wherever they live, can use MetroHealth Select if they feel it's important," he says.

Reflecting strategy in the brand

While MetroHealth has multiple existing health centers, the Middleburg Heights center and other new facilities will be much larger and offer correspondingly more services. The system thus designed the building to reflect its new approach to care delivery. The new center will use browns and yellows — earth tones that reflect Cleveland's history and MetroHealth's role as the first hospital in the city.

The use of glass in the building speaks to the system's transparency and close relationship with the community. "MetroHealth works in very close collaboration with the county, so we need to be very transparent. We wanted to reflect that transparency in the glass," Dr. Lewis says. In addition, the angular shape of the facility is designed to look like an embrace to represent the relationship between MetroHealth providers and patients. "MetroHealth physicians have a great reputation for caring for their patients; the embrace reflects how they care for people," Dr. Lewis says."

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