Chicago's Rush University Medical Center is planning to build a $500 million outpatient center just east of its main hospital tower, reining in care that is currently strewn across the hospital system's Near West Side campus.
The nine-story, 620,000-square-foot tower would be the second major structure built as part of Rush's overarching plan to upgrade its campus and bring it into the future of health care and patient treatment. The first major structure, a butterfly-shaped patient tower along the Eisenhower Expressway, cost $683 million to build and started accepting patients in January 2012.
“The signature statement (of the last 10 years of campus transformation) is reflected in the butterfly tower,” said Peter Butler, president of Rush University Medical Center. “This is the twin to that on the outpatient side.”
The planned outpatient center will sit at the corner of West Harrison Street and South Ashland Avenue, just across the street from the butterfly tower. Butler said the buildings will be connected, making all forms of clinical care easily accessible.
Outpatient services from multiple buildings on either side of the expressway will converge in the new tower, which is expected to be completed in 2020, Butler said. Relocated services will likely include primary care and specialty physician offices, the Rush Ambulatory Surgi Center, and nearly all outpatient clinical and diagnostic services such as imaging, interventional radiology and rehabilitative therapy services.
Dr. Larry Goodman, CEO of Rush University Medical Center, said the new building will have the ability to facilitate 30-40 percent growth in outpatient, or ambulatory, services.
“We are out of ambulatory growth space and we don't think the only place to grow is on our campus,” Goodman said.
Outpatient services at Rush have been growing about five percent each year for the past three years, Butler said. The new building will have about the same square footage as Rush's current outpatient facilities, but the added efficiency leaves room for growth.
Goodman expects the new facility to do more than facilitate growth. He said its updated equipment, design and layout will anticipate and facilitate the future of quality health care.
“It's more than just building a new facility,” Goodman said. “It's the next step of what it really could be to coordinate quality.”
Officials submitted a proposal for the new outpatient tower to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Board Nov. 16. The document has not yet become available to the public. The board decides the fate of health care projects to prevent duplication of services.
Rush is the flagship of a four-hospital network and one of the largest health systems in the Chicago area, with $2 billion in 2014 total revenue. That figure doesn't include Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, which joined the hospital network in 2014 after its fiscal year ended.
Tim Marshall, a managing director at Chicago-based Claro Group focused on health care consulting, said most of the large health care providers in the Chicagoland area are seeing drastic drops in inpatient numbers as they move to make treatment cheaper for patients. The drop is forcing providers to rethink the quality of their outpatient care and the volume of outpatients they can handle. It is a question of quality but also a question of revenue and expanding market share.
"Large providers are seeing 5, even 10 percent decreases (in inpatient volume) within as short as a year or two, and it is being driven primarily into the outpatient arena,” he said. “To the extent that providers are not heavily invested in the outpatient setting, they are potentially going to be in a difficult spot several years out."
Rush spokesman John Pontarelli said funding for the project will come from a combination of revenue, debt financing and fundraising. Rush has seen plenty of success in this arena—it exceeded its goal of $313 million set in 2004 and raised nearly $389 million for the butterfly tower and other components of its mission.
Administrative offices and other services will move into the space vacated by outpatient services moving to the new building. Rush also submitted plans to build two new parking structures and a parking lot.
Student housing currently sits at the corner of Harrison and Ashland, where this outpatient facility is set to be built. Goodman said 10-14 percent of Rush's 2,400 students live in those buildings, which will be demolished. Plans for where to build more student housing are still under development.
Rush University has four colleges that train doctors, nurses and others pursuing a health sciences degree. Enrollment has doubled over the past 10 years.
Rush is making plans to use the seven acres of the nearby Malcolm X campus it acquired to upgrade its academic facilities. Goodman said he envisions an area where students can learn and be part of the surrounding community. Teaching styles are moving away from giant lecture halls and into hands-on group settings, and Rush wants to lead that charge, he said.
Butler also confirmed that Rush is planning to open a site in River North "that provides primary care and other services that people expect to have close to home." He declined to disclose the price of the facility or an exact location, but said it should be about 10,000 square feet.