Health Care Expanding Economic Development

Seeking a cure for needed services in the future, hospital officials are looking up and out.

In Sumter County, a $50 million expansion project is underway at The Villages Regional Hospital, including new patient beds, a larger emergency room and more operating rooms. The projected completion date is January 2015.

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital recently put the finishing touches on a $116 million expansion in Hillsborough County that brings greater size and scope to the area’s busiest children’s emergency center. In addition, a reported $270 million is going into the construction of St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in 2015.

That same total is earmarked for three towers dedicated to women’s health at campuses of Florida Hospital in Winter Park, Celebration and Orlando. The towers at Winter Park and Celebration opened last October. The third and largest tower is the Florida Hospital for Women, scheduled to open in 2015 and designed to meet the health needs of women in all stages of life. Only one previous Florida Hospital capital investment has exceeded that total expenditure.

There’s more.

The first phase of a multiyear master facility plan at Lakeland Regional Medical Center encompasses a new medical tower with a surgical suite boasting a capacity for 17 hybrid-sized operating rooms, new private patient rooms and a helipad, among other additions.

Oak Hill Hospital is adding 70,000 new square feet plus renovating another 30,000 square feet, making it the largest project of its kind in Hernando County history. The expansion, recently completed, provides eight new operating rooms and a two-story inpatient bed tower with 36 private rooms, among other features.

In Gainesville, University of Florida officials are planning a major reconstruction of UF Health Shands that will add more than 200 beds. Construction on the $400 million project is estimated to be complete in 2018, with the new specialty tower expected to house UF Health Shand’s neuromedicine and cardiovascular hospitals.

Hospital expansion is everywhere, to the tune of more than $2.6 billion in projects started in 2013 and scheduled through 2018, according to FORWARD Florida research. That doesn’t factor a complete overhaul of Munroe Regional Medical Center in Marion County over the next four decades plus other hospital plans that haven’t yet been announced.

The news is certainly good for an industry sector that created more than 739,000 jobs and generated $54 billion in total economic contributions across Florida at last count. Yet, why all the expansions seemingly at once?

Think demand and quality, says David Banks, an executive vice president with Florida Hospital Orlando and its chief strategy officer.

Banks joined the Adventist Health System team in 1994, holding leadership roles within both AHS and its largest subsidiary, Florida Hospital. He has been involved with numerous expansions then and now—all with a key driver: utilization. “The demand for services really at all levels of care, from outpatient ambulatory to inpatient, will just continue to go up for the next 10 to 15 years,” he says.

Florida’s sheer population growth is one variable. At the same time, baby boomers are retiring and the federal Affordable Care Act has, in many respects, enhanced patient access to hospitals.

Similarly, in a sense the proverbial doctor seems to have prescribed innovation for the Super Region. “There is definitely a call, and it’s coming from the government side of the equation and it’s coming from large employers, for a different value proposition in health care,” he cites.

“What’s inpatient today and can it move to outpatient, and what’s outpatient and can it move to a physician’s office? Are there less intense ways to get things delivered? That speaks to innovation.

“Also, there’s a demand for more transparency around the outcomes and the quality of what’s being produced. That shows up in overall outcomes as well as the reduction of complications—the efficiency of the system and reduction of errors.”

Banks points to the Triple Aim—a framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement over the past few years for optimizing health system performance. All is centered around (1) improving the patient experience of care; (2) improving the health of populations; and (3) reducing the per capita cost of health care.

Notably, the U.S. health-care system is the most costly in the world, accounting for 17 percent of the gross domestic product, with estimates that it will grow to nearly 20 percent by 2020.

In terms of Triple Aim, the Super Region is likely more on target than most others. Aside from hospital giants across the 23 counties, the rising Medical Center at Lake Nona near Orlando holds great promise for teaching, research and patient care. The Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation housed in downtown Tampa embodies innovation. Both the University of South Florida and University of Central Florida have medical schools.

“In our world, we have to figure out how to take care of more people. We have to figure out a way to do it using less resources, and we know we have to do it with better outcomes,” Banks says.

Those components are coupled with economic realities and a savvier consumer. Hospital expansion is cyclical. And with hospitals emerging, like other industries, from economic uncertainty, there is a willingness to spend. After some “soul searching,” Banks says, hospitals are taking action. Consumers, meanwhile, “understand what they want to buy.”

As a result, in the midst of a largely uneven time for hospitals—given the talk surrounding Obamacare and related insurance issues—there is growth. And while bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, Banks says it does translate here.

“We should be figuring out a way to get care delivered at the highest quality in the least intensive way. Ultimately, that is what creates sustainability in a health care system.”

The Super Region is not using band-
aids to fix problems, but rather brick
and mortar.