Partners to open 4 new outpatient centers
Targets Westwood, Woburn, Westborough, Salem, NH
PARTNERS HEALTHCARE is launching a major expansion of its outpatient network in a bid to grow its already large customer base by serving patients closer to where they live and in lower-cost settings.
The state’s largest health care provider said it is spending $400 million and hiring 700 people to open or expand facilities north, south, and west of Boston. The locations are Westwood to the southwest (off of Route 128), Westborough to the west (near I-495 and I-90), Woburn to the north (near the intersection of I-95 and I-93), and Salem, New Hampshire (just across the Massachusetts border).
Designed to cater to customers within driving distance of the facilities, the outpatient centers will provide primary and specialty physician services at all locations, plus surgery and imaging services at the larger ones.
John Fernandez, president of newly formed Partners Ambulatory Care and Mass Eye and Ear, indicated the goal is to expand the system’s customer base. He said the new expansion will not be accompanied by contraction elsewhere.
Fernandez said the company’s contracts with health insurers will yield lower rates than what Partners receives at its hospital facilities, which are typically the highest in the state.
Partners, which is slated to change its name to Massachusetts General Brigham next year, already operates standalone facilities in Foxborough, Waltham, and Danvers, but some of those are licensed hospital facilities that will continue to operate at a higher price point.
Paul Hattis, an associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University Medical School who in the past has called for reining in Partners’ marketing power, said the new ambulatory care centers will only expand the system’s clout. Without some controls on what Partners can charge for its services, Hattis predicted the new outpatient centers will take market share away from competitors and result in higher medical spending overall. Hattis urged the Department of Public Health and the Health Policy Commission to scrutinize the Partners expansion.Hattis noted all of the new facilities are in locations where a higher proportion of commercially insured patients live. “I don’t see them expanding their presence in poorer cities and towns,” he said.
Partners did say it would spend $35 million in the Boston area “to reduce inequities in health outcomes and to increase access to behavioral health services” for Partners primary care patients. “Funding to train behavioral health clinicians who match the ethnic and linguistic diversity of patients living in Boston neighborhoods and for piloting innovative community-based approaches to addressing behavioral health needs will also be included,” according to the press release.