It’s been several years in the works, but Mercy Springfield Communities’ clinic has expanded its footprint in Branson.
Mercy Branson Multi-Specialty Clinic, 448 State Highway 248, a $22.5 million, 53,000-square-foot facility, opened Nov. 5. The opening followed an Oct. 31 ribbon-cutting and blessing ceremony that drew around 400 community members, according to Mercy officials.
The health care provider is no stranger to the Branson area, as prior to the opening of its new facility Mercy operated a family medicine clinic, also on Highway 248, and a therapy center on Branson Landing Boulevard.
The family medicine clinic closed when the new clinic opened, while the therapy services location will remain operational until early 2019, Mercy spokeswoman Sonya Kullmann said. The plan is to fold those services into the new clinic.
Jenine Vincent, Mercy’s vice president of regional operations, said about 4,500 square feet of the clinic is shell space for future growth – something she expects to occur within the next two years. Additional construction is not out of the question, either.
“We designed it and laid it out on the land so that we could further expand the building, and it’s also prepared to go up as well,” she said. “We had growth in mind when we designed the building. We intend to grow.”
With a bigger clinic comes a bigger menu of services.
Vincent said new services will eliminate the need for patients to make the drive to Springfield, noting drug testing, CT scans and ultrasound services are all new options by Mercy in Branson.
Oncology services were offered, but in a small space that wasn’t very comfortable to patients, Vincent said. The new clinic has a special focus around oncology with an open space and large windows overlooking the bluff across Highway 65, she added.
“We wanted to create an atmosphere that was warm, welcoming and comforting to our patients,” Vincent said. “We spent a lot of time designing the oncology suite in the new building for just that purpose.”
An expanded heart focus was also a purposeful plan in the clinic design, she said, with electrocardiogram and echocardiogram testing availability.
“We will have a greater presence of cardiology than we’ve ever had in the past,” Vincent said.
The Branson community was part of the dialogue in the planning phase to determine the services provided, she said. The facility took approximately 12 months to construct, Vincent said, which was preceded by an extended planning period that started in 2013 when the Branson Board of Aldermen approved the project.
The building sits on the site of the former Branson Inn, which was torn down, as was the adjacent Oak Ridge Boys Theatre, to make room for the development, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.
After the Oak Ridge Boys Theatre was torn down, Mercy officials have said substantial prep work was required to get the site ready for construction. Contractors addressed potential drainage concerns and added a retaining wall, which put the start of construction in October 2017, some 19 months after DeWitt & Associates Inc. broke ground.
Virtual care connection
Virtual medicine is one service Mercy previously offered, but now is more emphasized. The health system in 2015 opened Mercy Virtual Care Center in Chesterfield, a $54 million, 125,000-square-foot facility that houses more than 850 employees – and no patients. Medical staff use virtual care technology including cameras, tablets and monitors to visit with patients in a hospital, doctor’s office or their own home.
“With Mercy Virtual, what we’re trying to do is really redesign health care,” said Mark Saxon, Mercy Virtual’s vice president of clinical operations. “We leverage technology and innovation as we do that.”
The signature virtual program is Mercy’s vEngagement, which Saxon said is offered in five states: Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
Vincent said the innovation was born out of a pilot project several years ago to address patients who have complexities in their health care and for which travel is challenging.
Kullmann said roughly 600 patients in the Mercy Springfield Communities system have used the vEngagement program, and it’s now among the virtual care services offered at the new Branson clinic.
The program provides patients, at no cost, with an iPad, blood pressure cuff and scale that allows their heart rate, sugar levels, weight and other information to be monitored by Virtual Care Center staff without the patient having to leave their home. Saxon said Mercy requires the individual have a primary care provider in the system and be in a modifiable disease state – meaning Mercy staff can help impact their condition, be it asthma, diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“What we really care about is the full care continuum,” Saxon said. “That means we’re able to help care, no matter where the patient is at. We’re trying to be way more proactive and less reactive.”
Making a commitment
Vincent has been with Mercy for nine years and can’t remember a time when Branson residents didn’t inquire with the health system about expanded services. Now, they have them, she said.
“It was an important investment in the community,” she said. “We’re so pleased that we did it. The challenge with the project was deciding what services do you bring, and how much do you bring to the community.”
She noted Branson was different than other recent construction projects, such as Ozark, which was completed in 2016, and Bolivar, set for completion in 2019, as it was built on already developed land. The facility underwent design changes during conversations with the community, but Vincent said she’s confident the clinic is what Branson deserves.
“It did require a lot of strategic thought and partnership with the community, but we definitely think the end result is exactly what we should have and we’re really excited to see what type of growth we’re going to have in the future.”
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