Deborah Avasthi Dunlap, chairwoman of Central Maine Healthcare, on Thursday announces plans for an outpatient facility in the Topsham space formerly occupied by Best Buy. Credit: CBS 13

Central Maine Healthcare unveiled plans Thursday to open what it is calling a first-of-its-kind outpatient health center in the state. The Topsham Care Center is something between a hospital and an urgent care clinic. Officials say the model embraces a more contemporary approach to health care that will offer high quality services at a lower cost.

The Topsham Care Center will occupy a former Best Buy store at the Topsham Fair Mall. The 44,000-square-foot space will hold nearly 30 exam rooms and 16 infusion chairs for cancer patients, as well as imaging services, mental health counseling, and rotating specialty services that could include orthopedics and cardiology.

“This is an entirely self-supporting medical universe,” says Jeff Brickman, CEO of Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare.

Brickman says the health center picks up on a trend that’s happening across the U.S., where hospitals are opening networks of outpatient centers.

“We can provide easily accessible care where people work, live, pray and play, so it’s much more convenient,” he says. “And we do it in a way that’s unencumbered by the traditional hospital cost structure.”

Breaking free of a hospital’s four walls and 24/7 operations, Brickman says, eliminates expensive overhead. And he says the Topsham Care Center will bend the cost curve in Maine without sacrificing quality. It will do that, he says, by partnering with academic institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital.

“We think of this ability to bring the best of community care and the best of academic medicine together in one spot is tremendously important,” says Tony James, senior vice president of integrated care at Mass General. “It’s something we’re doing across the region.”

Central Maine Healthcare is also partnering with Massachusetts-based Shields Health Care Group to provide MRIs, ultrasounds and other imaging services. New England Cancer Specialists will deliver infusion treatments.

Peter Hayes, CEO of the Healthcare Purchaser Alliance of Maine, says he’s encouraged that health care providers are looking at different models of care with the goal of boosting quality and lowering costs.

“What we’re concerned about, I mean Maine’s got, as you look at our citizens, the average deductible in Maine is about $2,000, and that’s the second highest in the country,” says Hayes.

Brickman says the Topsham Care Center is the first of several such centers he plans to launch across the state. If care does increasingly shift to outpatient health centers, Brickman says that means hospitals will have their own role.

“What’s happening is, hospitals are becoming large ICUs, as only the most acute type of patient still comes into a hospital, or for the very complicated, acute level surgery,” he says.

The Topsham Care Center is slated to open in June, and is expected to produce 100 new jobs.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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