'Medical malls' provide array of services under one roof - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

'Medical malls' provide array of services under one roof

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UNDATED (WJRT) - (08/28/14) - Instead of buying jeans, having lunch and getting a haircut in one stop - think mammogram, blood pressure check and pharmaceuticals.

Like America's shopping malls, so-called "medical malls" provide an array of medical services under one roof.

It's a new life for old hospitals and shopping centers. Are medical malls just what the doctor ordered for healthcare - or should buyers beware?

Some hospitals in America's urban areas have flatlined 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, 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 check-up near her home.

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

Some critics of the medical mall concept say consumers beware - these are for-profit health centers. Watch for out-of-pocket charges.

"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 Sharad Sahu, MD, director of physician affairs at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Critics worry medical malls will take business away from existing hospitals and create more systems in trouble, but residents in urban areas say 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 say the concept has really taken off over the past five years. Some say it's in part due to new insurance reimbursement models from the affordable care act.

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