PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It used to be everyone shopped downtown and then, shopping moved out into the suburbs as malls grew in popularity.
It used to be everyone got their medical care at or near a hospital in the city too.
Now, medical malls are springing up all over the region to bring medical care closer to the community with convenient locations, free parking, and one-stop-shopping.
"Our strategy is to attempt to take care to the public, instead of having the public come to you," Norm Mitry with the Heritage Valley Health System said. "And really just making it one part of your day, instead of having to spend a whole day going to a hospital for care."
Heritage Valley Health System's healthcare "neighborhood" in Chippewa opened last March. It offers primary care, lab and imaging services, and walk-in appointments all under one strip mall roof. Roughly 10,000 patients a month come here from eastern Ohio, Lawrence County, Chippewa, and Beaver.
It's not so unlike the West Penn Allegheny Health System facility in Peters, which opened in April 2011, serving people from Peters, Upper St. Clair and Canonsburg.
It has 50,000 square feet of primary care, a variety of specialists, physical therapy, and outpatient surgery. The doctors are from the health system and some independent groups time share.
"We met with different organizations, church groups, and sit down to find out what their needs were, and what types of services they'd like us to offer here," Terry Wiltrout with the West Penn Allegheny Health System said.
The existing building in a prominent location was easy to convert. The plan is to extend along the whole strip mall someday.
Choosing to build with bricks and mortar is what St. Clair Hospital has decided to do with its medical mall, further south in Peters.
"Very green, ecologically friendly building, rather than move into one that was already there," says Dr. Alan Yeasted of St. Clair Hospital.
It will have similar offerings with doctors on the second floor and medical testing on the first.
"We have so many patients coming to St. Clair from this area," Dr. Yeasted explains, "Our growth in this market has been about 40 percent in the past five years."
Other malls are coming soon as well. Excela Health is refitting a shopping center in North Huntingdon, and building in Latrobe and Greensburg. Highmark is planning a surgery-focused center in Monroeville, and a megamall in Wexford, with retail shops and walking paths.
One challenge has been changing the historical medical care patterns of patients.
However, to the people who live in the communities these medical malls serve, it makes a lot of sense.
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