Health Beat: Medical malls for your health?

Health Beat: Medical malls for your health?

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. - Now you see them, now you don't. Some hospitals in America's urban areas have flat-lined financially. In New Jersey alone, 26 hospitals have closed over the past two decades.

Across the country, developers are pumping new life into old buildings by turning them into medical malls.

"There's a pharmacist in the building. There's an imaging center in the building, and we have physical therapy," said E. Stephen Kirby, managing partner, Community Healthcare Associates LLC.

For some patients, you can't beat convenience. Maryam Mere was recently in a car wreck and needed a checkup near her home.

"Especially after the accident you don't want to drive," Mere said.

"A hospital has to have an emergency room so patients cannot be turned away, while the medical malls have got urgent care centers, and you know, are basically payer-based," said Dr. Sharad Sahu, director of physician affairs, Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Critics said they worry medical malls will take business away from existing hospitals and create more systems in trouble.

Residents in urban areas, however, said access to quality care and fewer empty, blighted buildings may be just the shot in the arm they need.

While medical malls have been around for more than a decade, researchers said the concept has really taken off over the past five years. Some said it's, in part, due to new insurance reimbursement models from the Affordable Care Act.

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