Health & Science

Hospital District Aiming at Outpatient Market

The Harris County Hospital District will break ground on two new buildings next month. The new outpatient clinics are part of an ongoing, $365 million expansion of the taxpayer-funded public health system. As KUHF’s Health Science and Technology Reporter Carrie Feibel learned, it’s also about making the Hospital District more appealing to patients with insurance.


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Harris County Hospital District LogoThere’s no question that Ben Taub is a busy hospital. In addition to being a Level 1 trauma center, it’s also the go-to emergency room for uninsured patients in central Houston.

“The Ben Taub site is constrained. There’s no way we can build out or up.”

That’s George Masi, the chief operating officer for the Hospital District. Masi says that at Ben Taub and LBJ Hospital, the competition for operating rooms and medical equipment like CT scanners is fierce. Patients with scheduled appointments often experience delays.

“You might have an appointment, but you could be bumped. In other words, if a multiple-car wreck shows up in the emergency room, with a lot of injured. you may have had an appointment, a long-standing appointment for a CT, for your knee, it’s not surprising those patients who are in that car wreck get first priority for that CT. So now I’ve been bumped. My appointment has to be rescheduled.”

An artist's rendering of the improvements to LBJ Hospital
An artist’s rendering of the improvements to LBJ Hospital

The two new buildings will cater strictly to those non-emergency patients. One building will go up on Holley Hall near 288. It will have five stories for outpatient services, including chemotherapy, radiation, MRIs, and ultrasounds. The other building will go up right next to LBJ on the city’s northeast side. It will have three dozen exam rooms and five operating rooms.

“These will be separate operating rooms that will manage the typical outpatient care needs: hernias, gallbladders, minor orthopedic repairs, those kinds of things you don’t have to be in a hospital bed overnight for. You come in the morning, go to pre-op, have the surgery, go to post-op, discharge and go home by four o’clock in the afternoon.”

The District plans to break ground on the new building s will break ground next month. Masi says the new clinics will help ease bottlenecks at the two main hospitals. With more patients going off-site, the main hospitals might be able convert some of the four-bed suites into two-bed suites and even private rooms. Masi says this will help appeal to people with insurance.

“We’re not looking to displace our uninsured patients with patients who have insurance, our strategy is to, as more patients become insured, to retain those patients.”

National health reform will be fully implemented in just a few years, and that means millions more people will have insurance and, presumably, more choices about where to seek treatment.

Carrie Feibel, KUHF News.

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