In South Jersey, Signposts to the Future of Healthcare in Garden State

Andrew Kitchenman | April 8, 2013 | Health Care
Virtua Voorhees pairs nonprofit hospital with commercial outpatient facility

Virtua president and CEO Richard Miller
It may seem odd that a new hospital would endorse a future in which New Jersey’s healthcare system is less dependent on hospitals, but a recent meeting of health and business leaders at Virtua Voorhees did just that.

The large Health and Wellness center built alongside the main building at nonprofit Virtua Voorhees houses commercial ventures that provide outpatient services. These are designed to increase patients’ health and reduce the effect — and costs — of chronic illnesses.

For regional business leaders, the combination of inpatient and outpatient facilities is a signpost to the future of New Jersey’s healthcare.

Thomas Morr, president and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia, said facilities like Virtua Voorhees serve as a growth engine for economic development. His organization focuses on recruiting businesses to the region, including Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer, and Salem counties.

“This is all about creating a new relationship between the healthcare community and the customers, the people who need potential care,” Morr said, adding that changes in federal law will increase the demand for outpatient care. “The Affordable Care Act doesn’t want you to spend three days [in a hospital] when one day will do. Other providers are stepping in to fill in the gaps.”

Morr said the focus on health and wellness is part of an effort to be proactive in reducing the need for healthcare. The demand for outpatient facilities, as well as the expected reliance on electronic health records, will encourage more businesses that support these services to spring up, he said.

“That creates a whole new business opportunity for other businesses to help them achieve those things,” Morr said, adding that Virtua Voorhees could be an example for other hospitals. “I really think that you’re on to something here in southern New Jersey.”

Virtua officials having a long-term goal of building an equal amount of space for for-profit commercial ventures in Voorhees as they built for the $463 million nonprofit hospital, according to Virtua president and CEO Richard Miller.

“The number of beds needed for inpatient care is going to be reduced. The reason is simply because of technology and the care model will shift to the outpatient model,” Miller said. “Virtua’s made a little bet in that area, because of its outpatient centers, that that’s the direction” for the future.

Miller said that with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid expected in the next 10 years, hospitals are looking for partnerships, along with a continued move toward hospital mergers.

Future growth in healthcare also will depend on partnerships between providers, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia President Madeline Bell. Her hospital has a partnership with Virtua Voorhees and has staff members located at the facility.

“Virtua brought their strength in this community and their brand in this community, and we brought our national preeminence and our highly trained doctors,” leading to a 27 percent increase in the volume of patients at the facility in the past year, Bell said. “That’s incredible growth, just right here in this example.”

Bell said CHOP patients at Voorhees benefit from receiving care close to home, while also providing care at a less expensive cost than at the hospital’s main facility in Philadelphia. Miller added that the most severe cases could be transported to Philadelphia.

Miller added: “If you have a world-class children’s hospital here, we don’t need to build a world-class children’s hospital 17 miles away. The goal is, how do we use their know-how, their resources, as a partner here in southern New Jersey?”

Healthcare-related economic growth has occurred at other new hospitals in the state. At University Medical Center of Princeton in Plainsboro, a redevelopment zone near the hospital attracted pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, noted Pam Hersh, vice president for government and community affairs of Princeton Health System.

Voorhees Mayor Michael Mignona also noted that hospital development has created positive ripples throughout the township, attributing the construction of PowerBack Rehabilitation, Brandywine Senior Living — a nursing and assisted-living facility — and two hotels to the arrival of the hospital.