The (Medical) Mall Has it All
A new complex of medical offices in Dover reflects the new style of health care: one-stop service—with a little bit of shopping, too.
(page 1 of 2)
When Dr. Thomas P. Barnett set up his surgical practice in Dover 17 years ago, he was surprised to learn how little confidence some of the residents had in their doctors.
Patients would thank him for a diagnosis, then tell him they would rather have the procedure done by a “real” doctor at Christiana Hospital.
Barnett figured it wasn’t a question of expertise that was driving their doubts, but a matter of perception. People expect offices to have a clean, modern look. Dover physicians were working out of outmoded medical-arts buildings or old houses that had a host of structural and environmental problems.
So when the Eden Hill Farm went up for sale after closing in December 2004, Barnett and a group of colleagues thought it would make an ideal location for a state-of-the-art medical center that would raise their profile and burnish their image.
Their vision became a reality in October when a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the Eden Hill Medical Center.
Roughly the size of three football fields, the $36 million project feels more like an upscale mall than a medical office. The main entrance features a two-story atrium and an expansive lobby with a white-tiled circular staircase. Three stretcher-compatible elevators ferry patients to and from appointments. Satellite radio is piped throughout the building, and the walls are soundproof. A café awaits those who want to do more than read a magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. The exterior is landscaped with as much greenery as possible, and a mansard roof adds a decorative touch to the colonial architecture. The parking lot can accommodate more than 800 vehicles.
Though the planners didn’t set out to build anything fancy, they admit the aesthetics do have their rewards.
“It’s like when you walk into Christiana Hospital, you think, ‘Wow, these people must really know what they’re doing,’” says Barnett, who toured other medical centers like Glasgow and Limestone in northern Delaware. “It’s just a general good feeling you get when you’re a patient, and it’s important to have confidence in your physicians.”
Medical malls offer the widest possible array of services and provide a convenient, one-stop environment designed for the healthcare consumers it serves. Eden Hill includes urgent care, laboratory, imaging, urology, podiatry, pulmonary, a sleep lab, ophthalmology, optometry, primary care, cosmetic surgery, infusion, pain management and a pharmacy.
“You can walk in the door and in one day see three or four or five different specialists, if you can arrange it,” says Stephen F. Dobias, a healthcare consultant with Indianapolis-based Somerset CPAs, which was instrumental in planning the project. “The efficiency you get by having all these services in a single building is significant.”
Medical malls also reflect the healthcare industry’s effort to keep costs down by providing an alternative to the hospital emergency room.
“It’s a great access point. The strategy complements what we need for our economic demographic,” says Gary Shaw, vice president of operations for the northern region of Bayhealth Medical Center, which has a one-sixth ownership in Express Care. “We need walk-in points for people that are less expensive than an emergency room, so we’re happy to be a part of it.”
The medical mall also serves as an effective platform for interaction between physicians and other healthcare providers.
“I think it’s human nature to develop relationships with people who are your neighbors,” Barnett says. “You get to know them and get to work with them, and it makes it a lot easier.”
Dr. Jeffrey Barton of Kent Foot and Ankle Center, for example, says he can tell the pharmacy to stock the medications he routinely prescribes so patients can pick them up before they leave.
He also recalls the time a patient suffered a fall before his appointment.
Page 2: The (Medical) Mall Has it All continues...