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Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 7:00am

WellStar Plans New 'Health Park'

WellStar Health System said Wednesday that is planning its third “health park’’ in Cobb County.

The facility will be located in the Smyrna/Vinings area, an affluent area close to the city of Atlanta. It is expected to open in late 2015 or early 2016, WellStar said.

The health park concept seeks to provide an array of outpatient services at one location, aimed at customer convenience. WellStar opened a health park in Acworth last year, and plans to open an east Cobb facility next year.

The five-hospital health system has also bought land in Cherokee County — a growing but still partly rural county north of Cobb — to offer a fourth health park.

The goal is to provide “one-stop shopping,’’ Joe Brywczynski, a WellStar senior vice president, told GHN on Wednesday. “Physicians and services are commingled under one roof.”

WellStar’s announcement underscores a multifaceted expansion strategy by the Marietta-based health system.

This month, WellStar and Walgreens announced an agreement to collaborate on treating patients who seek care in eight health clinics run by the pharmacy chain. And WellStar and Piedmont Healthcare are now offering a health plan for residents of metro Atlanta.

The Smyrna/Vinings health park will include medical diagnostic testing services, physical therapy and sports medicine, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, pharmacy and wellness. It will feature a mix of primary physicians and specialists.

A health park offers outpatient services “where our patients live,’’ lowering their drive times, Brywczynski said. WellStar’s neighborhood locations are a contrast with other hospital systems expanding outpatient services on their own campuses, he added.

The cost of the newly announced project should be similar to the $73 million east Cobb health park, he said.

The Acworth health park drew 110,000 patients in its first year, Brywczynski said.

“WellStar is moving aggressively to meet patients’ needs,’’ he said.

Greg Charleston of consulting firm Conway MacKenzie in Atlanta said the WellStar focus on outpatient care mirrors the current growth patterns in health care.

While some health systems have sought to acquire hospitals, Charleston said, WellStar has developed a strategy “where a hospital system takes responsibility for a certain region, outpatient to inpatient.’’

WellStar is seeking “to keep patients and doctors in their system,’’ Charleston said. A health park, he said, shows they are “really committing to a population area and the best way to provide outpatient services.’’

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