Hackensack Meridian Health Health & Wellness Center, Woodbridge, New Jersey

For its newest Health & Wellness Center, not-for-profit health network Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) is building a 60,000-square-foot facility at New Jersey’s Metropark Station in Woodbridge, N.J.

The transportation hub, which serves more than 60,000 New Jersey Transit and Amtrak travelers each month, is undergoing a redevelopment that includes residential, office space, retail, and dining.

Jose Lozano, executive vice president and chief growth officer at Hackensack Meridian Health

Jose Lozano (Image credit: Hackensack Meridan Health)

By bringing its health services to this multiuse location, HMH aims to further its goals to address care access and equity. Here, Jose Lozano, executive vice president and chief growth officer at Hackensack Meridian Health (Edison, N.J.) talks about project planning and design strategies and the future of ambulatory care.

What drove HMH to want to locate a clinic within this $200 million project?

As part of our focus on expanding access to quality healthcare, we have invested in opening Hackensack Meridian Health & Wellness Centers in Eatontown, Clark, and Paramus, N.J.

These centers are in convenient locations that allow our patients to have easy access to primary and urgent care, specialists, advanced imaging, and other services. The site at Metropark Station is the next step in this effort.

Another core focus for Hackensack Meridian Health is improving health equity by addressing the social determinants of health, including access to reliable transportation to the doctor. By putting a Health & Wellness Center within a transit hub, we are offering a great healthcare option for people whose main form of transportation is mass transit.

What are the benefits of co-locating healthcare with residential, retail, office, and transit services?

We think being in such a convenient location will allow patients to regularly prioritize attending to their healthcare needs rather than putting it off. Our hospitals will always be here for patients with the most advanced and compassionate care, but our goal is always to address healthcare concerns before a patient needs a hospital.

By offering patients convenient access to the best doctors right in their community, we are making it easier for everyone to seek the care they need.

What challenges did you need to address to incorporate healthcare at a multiuse site?

We feel strongly that we are developing the playbook for future ambulatory sites. While this space will be a hustling and bustling mass transit hub, retail destination, and residential community, we also want our Health & Wellness Center to be a calm place of healing. Careful consideration was given to the placement of the center on the site to maximize convenience without sacrificing a healing environment.

Additionally, some of our medical equipment requires a large space or specific placement, which has been considered. Finally, while we want the site to be accessible by mass transit, we also want our patients coming by car to find this a convenient location, so it was important to ensure sufficient, dedicated parking on-site.

What are some features of the clinic design?

This is an efficient design that creates a one-stop-shop model where patients can see their physician and do any necessary testing and pick up a prescription prior to departing. A great deal of thought and intention has gone into the design to optimize its function for our doctors and team members and the experience for our patients. It will expand on the recognizable footprint of some of our previously established centers in Eatontown, Clark, and Paramus.

What health and wellness services will be housed here?

We are working with our hospital and medical group leaders to understand the most needed services in the community to determine the offerings. We are thinking through what services people might want to schedule before or after their daily commute and what services are more convenient outside the hospital. We hope to continue to expand our offerings as the need arises.

Do you expect to see more demand for projects like this within the industry?

Hackensack Meridian Health sees this as the new model for healthcare. Our goal is to make our hospitals for acute care and conditions that require hospital-level care. All other medical services are best done in a location that’s more accessible. By offering medical services in convenient locations, we believe more patients will see their doctor, improving their health.

Anne DiNardo is editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design magazine and can be reached at anne.dinardo@emeraldx.com.