Edmond, Okla., an affluent suburb north of Oklahoma City, has drawn the interest of major retailers. St. Louis-based Mercy health system has had its eye on Edmond, too.
With a population of more than 80,000, Edmond is younger and wealthier than Oklahoma City, with a median age of 34.8, median household income of $66,535, and a projected five-year growth rate of 11%.
The 35-hospital Mercy system used a variety of sophisticated data techniques to determine what services and specialties could be successful there. For instance, psychographic data from Buxton, a Fort Worth, Texas-based customer analytics company, showed local healthcare consumption trends. Edmond is “a well-established community, so you've got a little bit of an aging population, but you've also got some younger folks moving in raising families,” said Nikki Viner, Mercy's vice president of market development.
A year ago, Mercy opened the $88 million Mercy Edmond I-35, 10 miles up the interstate from its Oklahoma City hospital. The facility features a sports performance and fitness center, outpatient surgery, diagnostic imaging, pharmacy and laboratory services and a convenient-care center. It has nearly 40 physicians and other providers. In planning a building such as Mercy Edmond, “you have to think like a retailer,” Viner said.
Health systems like Mercy long have studied demographic and marketing data from such sources as the U.S. Census Bureau, health-planning agencies and hospital associations, in deciding where to locate new facilities. Increasingly, they are using new sources of information such as electronic health records, health insurers' billing records and data used by major retailers. Hospital marketing specialists, geo-analytic gurus, health planners and architects mash up the data, overlaying information from a variety of sources to create maps to visualize market opportunities.
Retailers for many years have used geo-analytics—visualization or mapping tools integrating sophisticated geographical and marketing data—to decide where to open stores and restaurants. Healthcare is starting to go that way, too.
Viner said selecting health facility locations is just like planning for a retail operation, moving beyond traditional demographic factors such as age, education and income to the types of data that a Target or Walgreen store tap. For Mercy, it's important to use all the best available data to make the right choices on where to place services such as primary care or a specialty hospital. “Healthcare is becoming more consumer-focused and retail-oriented,” Viner said.
Dr. Este Geraghty, chief medical officer for Redlands, Calif.-based Esri, a mapping technology company, said health organizations generally have similar data needs to those of retailers, including population demographics, population density and market potential. But they may make very different choices based on that data when siting a clinic for low-income people versus picking a spot for a high-end clothing store, for instance. “The data are much the same, but the perspective is going to be totally different,” she said.