GREENFIELD — When patients enter the new Gateway Hancock Health, the first thing they will do is enter their information into a kiosk iPad.
The process of checking in will be completely electronic — patients will even be able do it on their mobile phones.
When a health care provider is ready to see them, they won’t be informed by a receptionist calling across a crowded waiting room, but by a text message.
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If they need assistance, patients can speak with the center’s “health advocates,” who will handle customer service — walking patients through the process of getting care as well as helping them with finances, even speaking to their insurance companies over the phone if necessary.
If patients need help filling out a form, maneuvering a wheelchair or finding a language interpreter, health advocates are there to help.
“We want to help support them all the way through the system,” health advocate Kimberly Miller said. “We’re an advocate for the patient; it’s all about patients first.”
Hancock Health’s new Gateway health center, which will begin seeing patients Monday, is aiming to be the future of health care — efficient, local and above all, affordable.
“We’re trying to provide an alternative so that people will use health care because they can afford health care,” said Rob Matt, senior vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer of Hancock Regional Hospital.
The new building, located in the southwest quadrant of the I-70/Mt. Comfort interchange, will provide immediate care as well as imaging and lab services. That will include common medical necessities like blood tests, ultrasounds and X-rays. Its location puts it 15 minutes or less away from every major community in the county.
Tours of the facility for physicians, patients and community members were held last week, culminating with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday and an open house on Friday. Visitors got a look at the facility’s three main components: an immediate care suite that will treat patients who are ill or injured but do not need to go to an emergency room; a blood testing suite that will perform most common blood analysis; and an imaging suite that will offer ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans and more.
Matt said there are several reasons why the new location was chosen. The western area of Hancock County is the fastest-growing part, Matt said, and the area where residents are least likely to be aware of Hancock Health.
Gateway is also aiming for “high quality, low cost,” Matt said. The health center plans to keep costs low for patients by using technology to reduce the number of employees needed and by utilizing a highly efficient “patient flow.”
While “any patient is a good patient,” Matt said, the goal for the Gateway facility is to reach the many people for whom medical care is unaffordable, giving them an opportunity to access care besides a hospital’s expensive emergency room. The payment process will also be simpler than it would be at a hospital, with patients receiving just one bill for all services.
Hancock Health CEO Steve Long said the center is intended to reach people who face financial barriers, like high-deductible insurance plans, to accessing medical services. Such insurance coverage is becoming more prevalent.
“We believe that this is the future of health care,” Long said.
A high-deductible health plan is one in which the insured must cover all health care costs up to a certain dollar amount before the insurer begins covering costs. They typically have a lower premium and are offered as one option to people with employer-provided insurance. According to a study in “Health Affairs,” people may choose a high-deductible plan because it seems more affordable and end up not getting care they need.
Gateway Hancock Health wants to change that for Hancock County residents.
“When you’ve got a $5,000 deductible and you go visit your doctor and they say ‘I need an MRI’ and you find out that it is $4,500 — wow. That is a big thing for most people to consider,” Long said. “So we took a very deliberate approach and we said, ‘How can we deliver hospital-grade services on hospital-quality equipment, in an extraordinary environment, but in a freestanding facility so that we can offer low prices?” Long said. “This is about most of the folks in this room, including everyone working for Hancock Health, because we are all on a high-deductible health plan.”
Jenn Cox, director of marketing at Hancock Health and business services director for Gateway, said high costs at hospitals come in large part from the need to be open, staffed and ready to provide any service 24-7. Because the Gateway Center will have shorter hours, a smaller number of employees, and more limited services it can provide at a high volume, it can keep costs down.
Cox said prices for the center’s services will be, on average, 70 percent lower than the cost for the same service at an area hospital.
The center will also integrate technology into the patient experience by giving them the option to book appointments, receive test results and more through a mobile app. Long said these measures are intended to be convenient for patients, especially young people, and may be introduced to other Hancock Health locations if they are successful.
The facility will have approximately 30 employees, Matt said; some will be new hires and some will transfer from the hospital. Expansion is already in the works, however, with plans for additional services to be offered in coming years.
“Watch for the transformation of Hancock County as it begins right here, at the corner of 70 and Mt. Comfort Road,” Long said.
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“Watch for the transformation of Hancock County as it begins right here, at the corner of 70 and Mt. Comfort Road.”
Steve Long, Hancock Health CEO
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With Gateway center, Hancock Health alsoo puts on its developer’s hat. Page A7