GREENFIELD — Hancock County’s biggest healthcare system is preparing to go west in a bid to catch the attention of residents in the county’s fastest-growing areas.
Hancock Health recently purchased about $3.1 million in real estate at the northwest corner of county roads 200N and 600W, with plans to build a low-cost diagnostic imaging lab offering full-scale imaging options, including MRI, CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, mammography and more, said Hancock Regional Hospital CEO Steve Long.
The facility, slated to open in 2019, is planned to be 20,000 to 30,000 square feet on 80 to 100 acres and aims to provide affordable imaging services to residents in the Fortville, McCordsville and New Palestine areas, said Rob Matt, chief strategy and innovation officer.
“We believe, and experts confirm, that patients that receive services at our New Palestine and McCordsville practices need a closer, more convenient location to their homes,” Matt stated in a news release.
Market research from Navigant Consulting, a Chicago-based firm, suggests residents in the western third of the county aren’t as familiar with Hancock Health (which comprises Hancock Regional Hospital, Hancock Physicians Network, the Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center and Hancock Wellness Centers) and instead are traveling to Indianapolis, Fishers or Carmel for their healthcare needs, Matt said.
Long said he believes County Road 600W, or Mt. Comfort Road, will see a large amount of growth in the decades to come. He drew parallels between that area and parts of Hendricks County, which saw an estimated population spike of some 15,000 residents between 2010 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Burea. McCordsville was one of the fastest-growing towns in the state last year, and the imaging facility is a nod to that progress, Long said.
The town’s Census numbers quadrupled from 2005 to 2010, jumping from 1,197 to 4,797. That number is closer to 7,500 today, said McCordsville town manager Tonya Galbraith.
Galbraith said she believes the new facility will meet the need for a medical center in the area.
“Being right by the interstate, it will make it visible and fairly convenient for folks to get to,” she said. “I think the more options for people, the better.”
The announcement follows a move late last year by the hospital to begin offering low-cost labs at its physician locations through the website, hancocklabs4u.com, an option targeting those who either can’t afford the cost of labs and screenings at the hospital or whose insurance has restrictively high deductibles, said Janet Strauch, director of laboratory services, in December.
A lab like the planned facility can provide lower-cost services because it will not have the overhead of a full-service hospital providing surgery and 24-hour emergency care, Long said. Labs and screenings at hospitals are expensive for several reasons, Matt said; foremost among them is the cost of operating a large facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Hospital officials have not released cost estimates for services that will be provided there.
The proposed imaging lab, which could have one or two floors, will cater to working adults with high deductible insurance, Long said. Hospitals like Hancock Regional Hospital are losing patients seeking diagnostic imaging services to free-standing facilities able to offer the services at a lower cost, he said.
An increasing number of people with private insurance are telling hospitals they’re not permitted to get their imaging tests done at the hospital because of the high costs, Long said.
For example, Indianapolis-based insurer Anthem Inc. last year told patients it would no longer pay for MRIs and CT scans delivered on an outpatient basis at hospitals, which can often cost several times more than the same services at a freestanding imaging center, according to the Indiana Business Journal.
MRIs and CT scans can vary from $350 to $2,000, depending on the region and type of facility, Anthem said.
Because of the way insurance is structured, diagnostic tests and imaging conducted at hospitals often require patients to reach their insurance deductible, whereas the labs are covered by insurance with only a co-pay at an independent diagnostic facility, Long said.
It’s about a 10-mile drive to get to most medical centers from Cumberland, said town manager April Fisher. She said having the imaging center half that distance from the town bordering Hancock and Marion counties will be a great convenience to residents.
“We don’t have a lot of health services located in Cumberland or immediately outside,” she said. “I applaud their efforts and commitment to getting involved with the western part of the county.”