NorthShore invests in orthopedics, immediate care
After what he called an "intense, challenging and gratifying" first year as CEO of NorthShore University HealthSystem, J.P. Gallagher is ready to shake things up in the Chicago suburbs.
For starters, Skokie Hospital will soon be designated as a specialty orthopedic and spine hospital.
Since NorthShore acquired the hospital nearly a decade ago, it has spent more than $300 million enhancing services and upgrading technology, among other improvements. The first phase of this project, which is expected to start in the spring, will cost between $35 million and $50 million, Gallagher said.
"What we're going to create is really the ultimate destination in, we believe, the Midwest for orthopedic and spine care," he said. "If the trends play out the way we anticipate," there could be a series of phases that include "adding (operating rooms), adding floors, increasing outpatient capacity, making additional investment and hiring people to meet a demand we think will be truly regional."
Some of the inpatient services currently provided at Skokie will likely be moved to Evanston Hospital less than 4 miles away, he added. Logistics are being worked out now.
On the outpatient side, which Gallagher said drives most of the NorthShore's growth, the system is poised to spend up to $25 million on 20 new retail-oriented immediate care sites in the next 12 months.
NorthShore's six existing immediate care sites, all of which are connected to physician offices, see about 115,000 patients each year. The second expansion plan could include adding an additional 50 sites over the next two years, which would bring the cost closer to $60 million, he said.
"It's providing a greater number of lower cost settings," Gallagher said. "Yes, we're going to invest a lot of money in opening up and staffing these facilities, but they're still less expensive to run than hospitals."
He added that two-thirds of the system's revenues are outpatient-based.
Last year was an interesting time for the health system. Gallagher was serving as chief operating officer when NorthShore and Advocate Health Care called off plans to merge.
Despite jokingly referring to his scars from the ordeal, Gallagher said the health system isn't actively looking for a new partner.
"If somewhere down the road the economics were such that we couldn't be cost competitive, that would require us to think, 'Does aligning with a partner make sense?' " he said. "But right now I've not seen any limitation."
NorthShore's pediatric division, however, is collaborating with Advocate Children's Hospital and UChicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital to enhance education and training for health care professionals, and also improve access to care and innovative therapies for young patients.
"As I think about the next five years, might there be additional opportunities like that (for collaboration)?" Gallagher said. "Certainly...my focus is on making sure NorthShore continues to get stronger and is driving value so that when people are thinking about those opportunities, NorthShore is an attractive partner."
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