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Monday, June 20, 2016

It Takes a Village

Posted By: Advancing Care

Westchester Medical Center Health Network to develop state-of-the art medical villages for healthcare needs.

By Ali Jackson-Jolley

Embracing healthy lifestyles — including  improved diet and exercise, smoking cessation and regular visits to primary-care practitioners — is hard for many of us. And it can be harder still if access to these services is difficult. Changing such conditions is the vision for the innovative new medical villages being developed within the campuses of Bon Secours Community Hospital and HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, both Members of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).

Once completed, the villages will be centralized medical hubs where the communities of Port Jervis, Kingston and beyond can gain easy access to all of their preventative and primary-care health needs, including wellness education, dental care, therapy sessions, diagnostic testing, behavioral health and transportation services. “It will be a one-stop shop on one consolidated campus within the same block, making it easy for our community to get the education and care they need,” explains Marsha Casey, Executive Vice President at WMCHealth.

According to Casey, the hope is that by providing better access to preventative and primary care, the medical village can improve the wellness of the entire population.

“We are trying to prevent people from ever having to be hospitalized, by promoting healthier lifestyles through things like education and exercise programs and then providing easy access to primary care, should they need it,” she says. A healthier population means fewer hospital stays, and fewer hospital stays translate directly into lower overall health costs. “The overall goal is to decrease avoidable hospital admissions by 25 percent within five years of the program’s start,” Casey says.

The Port Jervis medical village will be a collaborative effort between Bon Secours Community Hospital and the Port Jervis community. For Bon Secours Community Hospital, which was awarded a $24.5 million capital grant from the state of New York, this collaboration means working closely with local practitioners, healthcare seekers (i.e., the general population), the federally qualified health centers (whose focus is to provide primary care for the underserved populations), Orange County Department of Mental Health and the American Cancer Society, just to name a few. “It’s not just the hospital coming up with all of the services; it’s the hospital working together with partners within the communities to understand what services are needed and then working with these partners to provide different kinds of services, creating a one-stop shop,” Casey explains.

Construction and renovation for the Port Jervis medical village is planned to begin this fall and will include the existing main hospital, office building, a brand-new observation unit, a redesigned emergency department and improved outpatient testing units.

WMCHealth’s Kingston-based Health Alliance of the Hudson Valley recently received an $88.8 million capital grant, which will be used to transform its HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus into a walkable medical village.

Like its counterpart in Port Jervis, the Kingston medical village will focus on providing easy access to preventative and primary care. However, there is a difference. “What is so unique about our medical village is our Healthy Neighborhood Initiative — a health-and-education district that we are working to develop with the city of Kingston,” explains Josh Ratner, Chief Strategic Officer of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley. Ratner explains that it’s the hospital’s unique location that makes it possible to create this district: Within four city blocks, you can find Kingston’s newly renovated public high school, the brand-new SUNY Ulster extension campus and two Health Alliance Hospitals (the Broadway Campus and Mary’s Avenue Campus).

“We really want to focus on workforce development and training and education within our medical village,” says Ratner. “Even before we break ground for construction, we can immediately start building simulation centers and interactive high-tech classrooms. We view our medical village in conjunction with the healthy neighborhood initiative as a real economic development opportunity, which will elevate the entire status of our community,” he says.

Although the concept of a medical village is unique to the Hudson Valley, Casey believes this collaborative approach to population wellness will become much more common. “I think we will see more partnerships where people will come together to prevent illness and better community collaborations around the prevention of illness,” she says. “And I hope this will all lead to improved population health as a whole.” •