A suburban building boom is extending Kaiser Permanente’s geographic spread across metro Atlanta.
The California-based nonprofit health plan says it’s adding new medical offices early in 2011 in Conyers and Fayetteville. Those two centers, along with one in downtown Atlanta, would make 11 new Kaiser medical clinic openings in a little more than a year.
“We also have plans for additional facilities,” said Peter Andruszkiewicz, president of Kaiser Permanente Georgia. The organization currently operates 24 medical facilities overall in the Atlanta area.
The objective is to build market share and put more facilities within an easy drive of Kaiser members. Kaiser has about 230,000 members in its Georgia health plan, which concentrates on the Atlanta area. Kaiser’s membership dipped when it lost a state employees contract, but the health plan says it expects an uptick in enrollment in January.
There has even been talk of a Kaiser partnership with Piedmont Hospital’s parent company to purchase Saint Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta.
All points of the compass
Over the past year, Kaiser Permanente has opened new facilities in downtown Decatur, east Cobb County, Lawrenceville, Holly Springs, northeast Cobb, Snellville, Douglasville and Newnan.
“We’re trying to make access to our health care providers more convenient for our members in metro Atlanta,’’ said Kaiser spokeswoman Kerri Hartsfield. “Our goal is to have members within a 20-minute drive of a primary care physician.’’
Kaiser did not give a dollar figure for the overall expansion. The two new centers in Conyers and Fayetteville will cost $4.6 million.
Andruszkiewicz says Kaiser in Georgia is re-emphasizing its traditional model: services delivered by its own physicians practicing at its facilities.
Benefiting the business model
Jodie Braner, a Buckhead insurance broker and consultant, says Kaiser has a very distinct business model for the industry, since other insurers, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, operate through independent, private practice physicians.
Adding the new centers enhances Kaiser’s appeal, Braner says. “They’re a leader in electronic medical records systems,’’ she says.
The medical center model has been a hurdle to Kaiser as it tries to increase its metro Atlanta market, says Charles Goldberg, regional director of Fox Systems, a consulting firm. But Goldberg, a former Kaiser official, also says the nonprofit’s expansion adds ‘’another level of convenience to better reach out to the population.’’
The spread of medical centers could help Kaiser sell its geographic reach to metro Atlanta employers, and offset the metro traffic problem for its members, Goldberg says.