Monday, July 28, 2008

Health Care In The Mall?!?!

One way of accessing health care in Prince George's County, MD, in the near future will be by emulating the tradition of suburban youth in America: going to the mall.

Oveta Wiggins at The Washington Post reports:

Under the plan, the county would partner with private retail owners to renovate or build spaces where customers could, for example, buy a pair of shoes in one end of the mall and get a mammogram or a physical in another. The partnership would be paid for with public and private dollars.
A feasibility report presented to the County Council a month ago looked at four different malls in the Beltway chosen due to their size, vacancy rates and unstable tenant base. After reviewing the report, some county officials have stated that they see this sort of development serving multiple purposes. On one side of the equation, adding medical services to malls would generate jobs and tax revenues for the county. On the other, access to medical services could be brought within reach of people in under served areas. The perception of a win-win scenario seems quite likely to be accurate. The funny thing is, this is not a new idea:

Hunter Interests, which was commissioned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to do the report, noted that hospitals introduced the "medical mall" concept about 20 years ago to bring health care closer to residential neighborhoods. Groups of doctors followed, opening clusters of medical services in abandoned retail spaces.

Still, there are only about 50 medical malls nationwide, Hunter said.

In my opinion, this is a highly logical move. In addition to the reasons that Ms. Wiggins presents in her report, I also think it is indicative of the ongoing consolidation of services I see occurring in many of the "big box" stores. Now you can often find notaries, banking and other services in these sort of venues. It makes perfect sense to integrate health services into the overall trend. After all, accessibility is one of the huge and looming issues in the current debate.

Transportation imposes limits on many people's access to health care, as well as a variety of other services. Bringing medical care to malls, which are usually easily accessible via public transit, vastly increases the array of people who can make use of said facilities.

SOURCE: "One-Stop Spot for Health-Care Needs - Officials Say 'Medical Malls' Could Make Services More Accessible, Convenient" 07/27/08
photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik, used under its Creative Commons license

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