On the main campus of Johnson Memorial Hospital, a $7 million renovation project progresses to install a new entrance, cafeteria and heating system.

But the hospital’s expansion extends far beyond its own campus.

Physicians and therapists recently started seeing patients in the Center Grove area. Plans are in place for satellite offices in Greenwood and Whiteland, in an effort to meet a growing need for physicians in the northern half of the county.

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“We feel very strongly that not only do we need to make sure our main campus is as modern as it can be, but we need to supplement and have those satellite facilities completed to allow the access of care to be increased,” said Larry Heydon, chief executive officer of Johnson Memorial Health.

While expansion and renovation on a hospital’s main campus is a priority, the limitations of space have required that area health providers establish care centers around the county.

By creating these outlying offices for primary physicians, medical imaging and other specialties, hospitals can expand their reach throughout the region while providing services that otherwise don’t fit in the main campus facility.

“You talk to anybody, it’s the future of our business. You’ve heard this phrase retail medicine. Hospitals and physicians have operated as if we’re the center of the universe, and people have to come to us,” said Tony Lennen, president of Community Health Network South Region. “That whole equation is flipped pretty recently. We have to go where the patients are. It needs to be convenient, on their terms and their hours.”

Changes in the health care system, with an added emphasis on preventive and managed care, have made these types of satellite offices more appealing.

Primary care is vital

Keeping people healthy and treating small illnesses and conditions throughout the year is more beneficial for patients than being admitted to the hospital or emergency room.

That makes it necessary to adjust the number of physicians and their offices to meet a growing population, Heydon said.

“The ‘superstars’ of this new era are the primary care physicians,” he said. “We need to make sure we have the right number of physicians throughout the county to serve these patients, and that’s what this really fits in to.”

The move to ambulatory or small satellite offices also recognizes changes in how consumers do everything from banking to shopping to seeing the doctor. Pharmacy behemoths CVS and Walgreens have increased the number of walk-in clinics to provide low-level health care.

The number of visits taken at these locations rose from 1.43 million in 2007 to more than 10 million in 2010, according to research by Harvard University health care policy researcher Ateev Mehrotra.

People want to see a doctor quickly and easily, near their own homes, Lennen said.

“It’s not really complicated. We’re fighting a long culture of the patients having to come to us on our terms,” he said. “These other players have figured out that if we don’t provide it for them, they will.”

The shift to more satellite offices has been ongoing around Johnson County for the past decade.

Community Health Network has opened 10 offices around central Indiana focused solely on imaging services, such as ultrasounds, general X-rays and mammograms. Its MedCheck facilities, including one in Greenwood, offer walk-in services for children and adults to treat everything from sore throats to broken bones.

Limited number of providers

In 2013, Community Health Network and Johnson Memorial Hospital partnered to construct the $14 million Stones Crossing Health Pavilion in the Center Grove area.

Primary care physicians, pediatricians, physical therapists and imaging services are housed in a single facility. The office fills a need for the residents of White River Township and Bargersville, who would otherwise need to drive to Franklin or Greenwood to see the doctor.

“Increased access to care is important. We need to make sure we’re in areas that are underserved or may not have the complement of physicians who are required,” Heydon said.

Johnson Memorial Hospital announced in January that it would be building a new physicians’ office building in Greenwood. The hospital had purchased property along U.S. 31 currently occupied by a mattress store.

Design of the building will carry on throughout this year, with the goal to break ground in 2016. The existing tenants will be able to stay in the building until the end of this year, at which point the structure will be demolished.

Construction will start in early 2016 on a 10,000- to 15,000-square foot office for primary care, family and internal medicine doctors.

“When you talk about that Greenwood area into that Whiteland area, there are a very limited number of providers in that area. So we felt that there was a need that existed,” Heydon said.

End of an era

At the same time, plans have been approved for an expanded Whiteland physicians office, which Johnson Memorial currently operates.

“We’ve outgrown our space in Whiteland, and our physicians are in a cramped environment. So we have to allow for a replacement facility in the Whiteland area,” Heydon said. “We want that timeline to sync with the Greenwood project, so we can have the same architect and same plans involved.”

Satellite offices allow health networks to establish in areas that might not have enough doctors for the residents living nearby, as well as providing additional services that might not fit into the hospital’s main campus.

Franciscan St. Francis Health operates 12 satellite offices outside its southside campus. Patients can see an oncologist in Franklin, a sleep specialist in Greenwood and an internist in the Center Grove area.

The hospital system has envisioned an urgent care center and medical office on 20 acres it purchased in 2013 on State Road 135 near Bargersville. But that project remains in the planning stages, spokesman Joe Stuteville said.

IU Health plans to open 12 urgent care clinics throughout central Indiana in the next two years, the hospital announced in December. The locations of those clinics and when they open are being determined, according to Gene Ford, spokesman for IU Health.

As the population shifts throughout Johnson County, growing in the Center Grove areas and southeast of Greenwood, Lennen expected more ambulatory offices to open up.

The forthcoming Worthsville Road exit off of Interstate 65 will spur large-scale development in that area, with neighborhoods sure to follow. He said the location has prime potential for health networks to grow and expand.

“The era is over where we say where the patients have to go and when they have to go there,” Lennen said.

At a glance

Satellite hospital offices planned for Johnson County

Johnson Memorial Health

What: New offices for primary care, family and internal medicine doctors in Greenwood

Where: 1000 U.S. 31 South, Greenwood

Size: 10,000 to 15,000 square feet

Status: In planning; construction will start in 2016

Johnson Memorial Health

What: Replace the offices for Johnson Memorial Family Medicine Specialists in Whiteland

Where: 340 W. Tracy Road, Whiteland

Size: In planning

Status: Project approved; design will continue through 2015, with construction to start in 2016.

Franciscan St. Francis Health

What: Construct a new urgent care center and medical office building

Where: A 20-acre piece of property at State Road 135 and Grove Crossing Boulevard, Greenwood

Size: Unknown

Status: In planning

Community Health Network

No satellite projects planned in the near future

IU Health

No satellite projects planned in the near future

Pull Quote

“Increased access to care is important. We need to make sure we’re in areas that are underserved or may not have the complement of physicians who are required.”

Larry Heydon, chief executive officer of Johnson Memorial Health, on the need for satellite medical facilities

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.