October 23, 2015 Utica, NY- This week an area politician mailed a member of #NoHospitalDowntown a note and an article, suggesting some reading. Excellent! We love researching healthcare and hospitals- it's exactly why this website exists, as we’re studying the current plan for a new Utica hospital. #NoHospitalDowntown opposes placing a hospital downtown and we’re reading and advocating for a knowledgeable and well-informed process that brings this to fruition.
The article sent was called “Emerging trends in healthcare development: neighborhood care, mixed-use model on the rise”. The kind note and article we’ll assume was to impress upon us that downtown hospitals are a growing “mixed-use” trend. However, if one dissects the article and does a little homework, it in no way helps build a case for a downtown Utica hospital. Dangerously, if one simply reads the article’s title and moves on, they would have another misguided reason to believe a downtown Utica hospital has merit. With a little thinking and examination of the story, one quickly sees the article provides extremely weak evidence and is more likely just a rudimentary blog posting seeking traction for a niche real estate/building design website.
First, the article is presented by two real estate professionals Patrick Duke and Eric Fisher. In their positions, they are likely simply engaged to find, sell, and fill real estate parcels to their target healthcare organization customers. Also the publisher Reed Business Information of the “magazine” Building Design & Construction is not a publisher of scientific healthcare-based journals. RBI in this situation is a trade magazine producer, and their publishing in this case is geared towards professionals selling healthcare-related real estate and contractors focused on buildings used by healthcare-related facilities.
So what does the article say? The first point is that hospitals are re-thinking their locations and site selection processes. The trend is for medical services to be positioned on mass transit routes. However, for Utica this is a moot point and does not in any way support a new downtown hospital- as Utica’s three current hospitals are already positioned on our city’s bus routes!
Next the article talks about concentrated clusters of people living in close proximity to “fixed-guideway” transit stops, and a trend towards siting medical outlets and retail in the immediate neighborhoods. This concept does not apply to Utica and the Mohawk Valley region unless you go back to when our trolleys were operating. Utica is not likely to ever build a subway (fix-guideway) system. If Utica did introduce a gondola, would they be connected to our hospital(s), old or new? We don’t think so, but then again the community has been told almost nothing about a supposed plan, and in fact we don’t believe there is a plan.
Regardless, the article goes on to talk about very large population centers and the disbursement of healthcare systems into multiple neighborhoods with transit stops. In these large neighborhoods, you'll be informed that you may increasingly see medical facilities positioned among apartment complexes, further surrounded by a drug store, a wellness clinics, restaurants and shops. The article suggests people want to live, work, and play within walking distance of everything they need.
If #NoHospitalDowntown trys to apply this to the proposed downtown Utica hospital, much would have to change first. For instance the region would need to pull-in about 10-20 medical offices from New Hartford and Whitesboro, build the hospital, and then draw an additional 10-20 retail shops away from Sangertown, the New Hartford Shopping Center and Consumer Square, and then relocate/attract thousands of people into downtown who want to live around this new “hospital/medical district”. Is downtown Utica forecasted to grow by thousands of residents? Additionally, are our bus routes planning to draw bus loads of people into a newly themed medical downtown? That’s what would have to happen to match the article’s view, but how likely does this describe Utica's future?
The single example in the article is that of Bryn Mawr, PA, a very affluent suburb of Philadelphia where the region’s corporate elite live (median household income $100,634). This population cluster is on the Philadelphia metro line, an area that boasts 8 college and private schools. Described are upscale townhomes for aging baby boomers that include “private elevators”, where a healthcare system has located to capture these healthcare dollars and market share from competing hospitals as the Affordable Care Act kicks in.
Authors go onto suggest that by moving into vacant spaces in highly populated urban areas, hospitals can lower cost as well as speed-up their time-to-market by avoiding new construction costs! One has to wonder how these topics relate to building a $600M+ dollar hospital in Utica (median household income $31,048) only after bulldozing 34 acres of land. Philadelphia (population 1,553,165) and Bryn Mawr, PA are not a good comparison as they're drastically different from the Utica-Rome, NY (population of 299,397) Metropolitan Statistical Area, except that they are separated by roughly 20 miles.
Lastly the article suggests that hospitals use “advanced predictive analytic techniques” which are often used by the retailing and banking industries to determine ideal location. Beyond that, hospitals should employ the rigorous use of healthcare and patient datasets and real-time local market intelligence to optimize their medical system’s business growth. Again, #NoHospitalDowntown must wonder, how advanced was the information, how broad, and how integrated of a process was used to locate the new hospital? Can the voting public see these datasets so we can be confident the top location was soundly determined?
The article’s authors move towards a conclusion, but first they suggest that hospitals partner with healthcare real-estate professionals (like themselves!) to eliminate the risks of selecting a location.
Finally in article’s conclusion, one reads “… a crucial element of this urban-centic outpatient strategy.” So in the end readers come to understand, the article is not about the type of hospital Utica’s leaders are considering placing downtown afterall.
We at #NoHospitalDowntown are left to wonder, “Why was this article sent to us? Perhaps someone is looking for #NoHospitalDowntown to do their homework… or perhaps that of the Mohawk Valley Health Systems? If so, we’re happy to have helped out and we look forward to a much more rigorous test in the future. However, may we suggest capturing Google search results for “hospitals”, “mixed-use” and “downtown” is a very unreliable way to site a nearly $1B hospital as one seeks to create a regional “Mohawk Valley Healthcare Transformation”.