MARIETTA - WellStar's goal to encircle Cobb County with health parks is one location closer with plans nearly finalized on the latest project off Atlanta Road, south of Smyrna.
WellStar Health System will build the WellStar Vinings Health Park, a 162,000-square-foot facility on more than 25 acres at 4441 Atlanta Road, west of Interstate 285 near the East-West Connector.
WellStar closed the deal on the land Nov. 3, 2011, for $11.4 million. Construction of the complex is scheduled to start late next summer and is estimated to cost $68 million, according to Joe Brywczynski, senior vice president of health parks development.
Physicians in the three-story building could start seeing patients in late 2015 or early 2016, with offices for medical imaging, lab testing, physical therapy and sports medicine, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and a pharmacy, Brywczynski said.
In July 2012, WellStar opened the three-story, 70,000 square-foot Acworth Health Park at 4550 Cobb Parkway just north of Cedarcrest Road, which cost $29 million.
WellStar broke ground on the East Cobb Health Park in April, a four-story, 188,000-square-foot building northeast of Marietta off Roswell Road, which is expected to cost $80 million and open next September.
The design of the WellStar Vinings Health Park will be similar to the East Cobb Health Park, Brywczynski said.
"So we don't have to start from scratch ... The design teams were happy with the footprint," Brywczynski said.
Both the East Cobb and Vinings health parks will be staffed with 125 people, including primary-care physicians, pediatric and OB/GYN doctors, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, allergists, as well as equipment for digital x-rays, MRIs and CT scans.
"It truly is a one-stop shop for our patients," Brywczynski said.
With overbooked rooms in the Acworth Health Park, the two new parks will double the space, four rooms each, for studies where patients spend the night to be monitored for sleep apnea.
An in-house network of physicians
Various health care services are coordinated under one roof, which will be a model for other systems in the future, said Ebon Bourne, an internist who joined WellStar Medical Group for the first time last year at the Acworth Health Park.
"It is great that we have everything right here. And patients echo that over and over," Bourne said.
Bourne said his adult patients coming in for complex issues like hypertension, diabetes, kidney or lung disease, can be sent directly to the lab for a bone density scan or blood tests.
As referrals to other specialists or for a second opinion, the sharing of patients between doctors at the Acworth Health Park is a benefit, Bourne said, because he knows these doctors have the time and will not make his patients wait three or four months to be seen.
Also in extreme circumstances, "I can walk across the hallway to discuss a patient face-to-face and see if they can be squeezed in," Bourne said.
Treating the community
The recent focus on health parks by WellStar is a strategic business move to increase the health system's market share in the fast-growing outpatient field, Brywczynski said.
In the next five years, outpatient health care is expected to grow by 30 percent, Brywczynski said, mostly because of technological advances that allow more testing and procedures done as outpatient treatment, and reforms in health insurance that have pushed patients away from the emergency rooms and into treatment closer to home.
In the first year at the Acworth Health Park, Brywczynski said 34,000 patients got diagnostic testing and 15,000 visited the urgent care, which is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"We just blew the doors off of all our expected patient numbers," Brywczynski said.
WellStar's Health Parks initiative focuses on community-based outpatient care centers that are conveniently located.
Brywczynski said rapid growth in the population of the Vinings area made it the next target for a health park. Bourne said the WellStar Health System is "well run and physician-led, which is what, as doctors, we look for."
WellStar Health System is the one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in Georgia and serves a population of nearly 1.4 million residents in five counties.