St. Luke’s enters the micro hospital business

A rendering shows the proposed micro hospital by St. Luke’s Health System to be located in Overland Park.
A rendering shows the proposed micro hospital by St. Luke’s Health System to be located in Overland Park. St. Luke’s Health System

St. Luke’s Health System has an unusual downsizing plan that’s also a growth vehicle.

The Kansas City-based hospital network confirmed Friday that it will operate a micro hospital at 75th and Marty streets in Overland Park.

The 17,000-square-foot facility, equipped with an emergency room and just eight beds for overnight stays, is designed to fill a niche between retail clinics and big hospitals.

St. Luke’s plans to open more such facilities in the Kansas City area, but hospital spokeswoman Laurel Gifford said it wasn’t ready to confirm additional details.

Plans for two other tiny hospitals in Johnson County have been submitted by the same developer, Embree Asset Group Inc. Without revealing the intended operator, Embree has pursued similar development agreements for Roe Avenue and Johnson Drive in Roeland Park and for 132nd Street and State Line Road in Leawood.

The mini hospital trend is emerging around the country as a 24-hour alternative to using emergency rooms at large hospitals. Storefront or walk-in clinics tied to retail stores also have proliferated but typically don’t stay open around the clock.

The St. Luke’s system already includes four full-service hospitals in the Kansas City metro area plus hospitals in Smithville, Chillicothe and Trenton in Missouri, and Garnett and Leavenworth in Kansas.

It also has four walk-in clinics, two surgery centers and Convenient Care clinics inside five Hy-Vee grocery stores in the metro area, with more in the works. And it is building separate clinics in Leawood and Blue Springs.

The patient-care edge in micro hospitals compared to walk-in clinics is that the emergency rooms will be staffed by emergency physicians. A micro hospital’s affiliation with a large-hospital operator also allows it to accept the same insurance as the large hospital, an advantage for some patients compared to unaffiliated clinics.

St. Luke’s CEO Melinda Estes told the Kansas City Business Journal that expanding with micro hospitals addresses patient desire to access health care “when they want and close to home.”

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford