Freestanding EDs promote innovation into health care – Inside INdiana Business

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The successful replacement of an aging health care facility requires thoughtful answers to two questions: Where should it be located, and how do you continue to provide care to those affected by a change in location? On their face, these questions sound simple enough. However, those who work in the health care development space know that simple questions often pair with complicated answers.  

Bremner Real Estate is proud to serve as the developer of Norman Regional Nine, a new freestanding emergency department. The project is designed to meet the health care needs of a growing community and replace some services of a soon-to-be-repurposed hospital campus located next to the University of Oklahoma.

In our work, we’ve found that the concept of a smaller freestanding emergency department (FSED), where emergency care services are provided separate from a main hospital, can effectively replace some of the most key services offered by a much larger, functionally obsolete facility, but location and demand are everything. In the case of Norman Regional Health, the new FSED will bridge the gap for critical care in a suburban portion of the community that otherwise might lose crucial access to emergency care and convenient access to basic health services that can result from the relocation of a regional hospital. 

The Norman concept also speaks to a trend we see in the health care development space.  

As hospital systems identify what their patient populations need, we anticipate the construction of fewer large hospitals and more ambulatory facilities similar to the framework of an FSED – very specific and targeted outpatient centers located in strategic, underserved areas. Often these solutions can be brought to the market in a much shorter time frame than larger projects and provide more cost-efficient care, creating a win-win situation for all parties.  

A strategically placed FSED can not only provide most of the same benefits that a larger hospital can in certain situations, but it can also extend the health system’s geographical reach. Patients can receive emergency care and ambulatory health services and only be forwarded to a main hospital if their situation requires it. Organizing care like this can also clear the way for hospital systems to consolidate their specialists and associated beds into their main campus facilities and save on operational costs of spreading those services across a wider geographic area.  

Norman Regional Nine is located less than five miles away from the current regional hospital and will continue to offer the vital services required by the area’s existing patient base, while the more specialized health services will be provided at Norman Regional Health’s expanding Healthplex campus on the northwest side of the city. Additionally, the new location of the FSED is closer to underserved areas to the south of Norman, effectively providing easier access as it relates to life-saving emergency health services for some rural communities located between Norman and the Texas border to the south. The new FSED features a 12-bed ER, complete diagnostics, testing, lab and pharmacy services, physician offices, and a rehabilitation and physical therapy clinic. Norman Regional Nine also comes as the area’s regional health system is rebranding as “Inspire Health,” where it’s positioning itself to provide health care in a way that promotes accessibility and convenience to all.  

Norman Regional Nine exemplifies the success of a development where changing service locations and maintaining adequate access to essential care for the affected communities were the most important factors in the planning process. As health care providers address their needs of replacing aging or functionally obsolete facilities, we expect to see more hospital systems employing this strategy to ensure proper coverage for their communities while maximizing the efficiency of the services they provide.  

Kevin Knue is Senior Vice President of Development, Partner, at Bremner Real Estate, a health care real estate firm headquartered in Indianapolis.

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