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Broomall is the New Battlefield in the Healthcare Wars

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Crozer COO Patrick Gavin at the new facility//Photo by Tessa Marie Images.

Broomall is the new darling of healthcare companies. In January, Crozer-Keystone Health System opened a 50,000-square-foot, $16.5 million outpatient center with a wide variety of medical services. It’s just 1.5 miles from Main Line Health’s outpatient center, which has its own array of doctors.

But why has Broomall become the new battlefield in the healthcare wars? Location is one answer. There’s north-south accessibility via I-476, and West Chester Pike is a big east-west channel. But that highway goodness is true of many areas in the western suburbs. 

What makes Broomall so special is that it’s experiencing a population boom—one that should continue for years. Elizabeth Jaekle, vice president of business development for the health system, says Crozer, like its competitors, does extensive market research to determine which geographies are going to grow in population and, therefore, healthcare needs. Crozer targeted Broomall five years ago and has been planning the new center since 2012. 

It’s easy to see what took so long. The former Pathmark is now a Four Seasons-like healthcare center, complete with modern architecture, soothing color palettes, posh seating areas, easy parking and an effervescent staff. Amenities aside, the services offered at the Broomall facility are extensive. Physicians in urgent care, imaging and diagnostics, primary care, OB-GYN, urogynecology, cancer care, podiatry, cardiac care, and pain-management all have offices there. Plus, Crozer’s surgery centers are nearby in Havertown. The Broomall-Havertown loop forms a circle of patient care that’s not based around hospitals, following the model that Crozer established with its Brinton Lake medical-surgical complex. 

That’s Crozer’s expansion strategy, says Patrick Gavin, its COO and executive vice president. “Patients no longer want to access their care inside a hospital,” he says. “Think about it. You arrive at a hospital building. You go into the parking garage and go up and find a space. You come back down and are walking through multiple buildings to get to your outpatient service. People don’t want to do that.”

But other healthcare systems—namely Main Line Health—have doubled down on their hospital presence, expanding their campuses to include more buildings. The still-new Lankenau Heart Institute is adjacent to Lankenau Hospital, and another medical office is being built across from Bryn Mawr Hospital. That said, the system also has outpatient centers in Collegeville, Exton, Newtown Square—and Broomall.

Competition for Crozer? Not according to Gavin. “The bottom line is, they don’t have a surgery center or hospital near that site,” he says. “Five miles down the Blue Route, you’re at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Two miles from here, you’re at Springfield Hospital. Go down West Chester Pike for five miles, and you’re at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. When they moved into Broomall, they moved into our territory.”

“Patients no longer want to access their care inside a hospital.”
— Crozer COO Patrick Gavin

Gavin’s Crozer GPS may be off by a few miles, and Main Line Health’s Bryn Mawr Hospital is less than five miles from Broomall. But he and Jaekle are now used to other healthcare systems invading “Crozer country.” It’s happening with the Brinton Lake facility in Glen Mills. Crozer was way ahead of the game when it opened there in 2005. Since then, the area has become a medical hub, with CHOP’s brand-new specialty care and surgery center, plus the $47 million complex that Main Line Health is building. Later this year, the Rothman Institute will open a new 14,000-square-foot office in Glen Mills. Imitation is a form of flattery, Jaekle admits. “But it’d be great if they all went home,” she adds with a laugh.

The feeling may indeed be mutual, but no one is backing down in the region’s healthcare war. In fact, Crozer is about to get stronger, Gavin contends. The system is getting a $200 million injection into strategic initiatives as part of its sale to Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc. The California-based company owns 13 hospitals and 40 clinics and outpatient centers in California, Texas and Rhode Island. Gavin says Crozer’s board of directors chose Prospect because of its approach to medical care and its shared corporate values. 

Crozer will retain its name, and all of its properties will remain open. “Prospect will not sell or close any of the hospitals for at least 10 years following the closing date of the agreement,” says Grant Gegwich, Crozer’s vice president of public relations and marketing. “This doesn’t mean they will close anything at the 10-year mark. In Prospect’s history, they have never sold or closed a hospital.”

Still, rumors circulated that Prospect would jettison some Crozer hospitals that serve low-income and under-insured patients, leaving them without healthcare. Not true, Gavin says. Crozer will become a for-profit system, but that won’t change patient care. “Our board screened the candidates very carefully,” he says. “Prospect was chosen based on its absolute commitment to charity-care policies, which are the same or better than ours.”

Leaving no patient behind was critical for Crozer, Gavin says. “Crozer is committed to the entirety of the county, not just the wealthy portions of it. We want to be clear about that. We’re proud of that, and Prospect is proud of that. Delaware County is Crozer country, and we aren’t going anywhere.”

Over the next five years, Prospect will provide $100 million to fund the employee pension plan, and there’s that aforementioned $200 million in capital. Where that money goes has yet to be determined, but Gavin says it will be spent on strategic initiatives that will improve patient care and possibly expand Crozer’s footprint. 

It’s a fair guess that at least some of Prospect’s $200 million will be spent on opening yet another high-end outpatient center in Delaware County. “Stay tuned,” he says with a smile. “There are great things to come.”