Allegheny Health Network, Highmark unveil new medical center near Greensburg
Closer-to-home care for about 130,000 card-carrying Highmark customers in Westmoreland County is the goal behind the new Allegheny Health Network outpatient center in Hempfield.
“For us, it's part of our investment back in the community,” said David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark Health.
Allegheny Health Network and Highmark executives, along with local public officials, on Tuesday unveiled the new facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 23,000-square-foot center, located east of Westmoreland Mall, started receiving patients in June, and its endoscopy center for gastrointestinal procedures will open in September.
The new facility brings more competition to the Westmoreland County health care market.
Excela Health spokeswoman Robin Jennings declined comment. When the AHN facility was announced in April, Jennings told the Tribune-Review the facility was “unnecessary” and would provide “duplicate services” in the region.
Jim Jordan, professor of Healthcare & Biotechnology Management at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, said Westmoreland County patients could see a benefit from the increased competition between AHN and Excela.
“The strongest argument to be excited (about) for Westmoreland is that competition between two organizations for patients will create incentives to provide innovative services to attract patients or clients,” Jordan said.
“The cons have always been with the argument that you cannot have innovation, quality and cost at the same time,” he said.
But since the Affordable Care Act established quality measures within the national health care reimbursement system, certain quality levels must be attained to receive reimbursement, he said.
Holmberg said Excela is “a fine organization” that Highmark has been partnered with for years. But he said Highmark has seen too much “outward migration of care” from the region.
“We continue to partner with Excela. We also believe there were certain areas, some speciality care areas, where there was more demand than there was maybe capability, and we tried to fill that gap with this facility,” he said.
Highmark Health and AHN want to increase the quality of care across the region and focus on “creating value and not volume when it comes to health care,” Holmberg said.
“What that means is bringing care closer to home, making it a better experience, improving the quality and the outcomes, and improving the affordability of care,” he said. “If you can deliver care in a location like this, what it starts to do is make it more affordable and easier for patients to get their treatments and so they tend to be more likely to keep up on their regiment.”
Cynthia Hundorfean, AHN's president and CEO, said it makes it easier for independent physicians and their patients to receive care at the new facility.
“They won't be required to send their patients to Downtown Pittsburgh if they don't want to go,” she said.
The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania said offering services closer to home for patients can reduce wait times, costs and burdens that come with extensive travel for surgery and care.
“Providing these outpatient services in more suburban and rural areas can help patients and their families or caregivers avoid traveling long distances and negotiating traffic, parking and other logistical matters that could lead to increased stress or anxiety before an appointment,” said Paula A. Bussard, HAP's chief strategy officer.
Hundorfean expects the facility to employ 20 to 30 doctors within the next few months.
A statement from AHN said planned physician practices include specialists in neurosurgery, orthopedics, esophageal and lung disease, cardiology, colon and rectal surgery, bariatric surgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation.
The site also will host ancillary services such as physical and occupational rehab therapy, blood labs, X-rays and MRI services.