Ultrasounds are standard
Patients at Heartland Women’s Healthcare clinics in Belleville and Shiloh will be getting new digs next year.
The regional obstetrics and gynecology group is breaking ground this month on a 16,000-square-foot medical building in Parkway 64 Corporate Center, on the same cul-de-sac as its current Shiloh location.
The project will create an OB-GYN supercenter of sorts.
“The new building will accommodate up to 10 providers at once with about 32 exam rooms, four ultrasound theaters, two labs and two procedure rooms,” said Dr. Michael Schifano, founder and CEO.
He expects it to open early next spring, bringing an estimated 20 jobs to the metro-east.
Heartland will keep its current 8,000-square-foot Shiloh space and use it for OB-GYN urgent care and specialty care, such as urogynecology. It will close its Belleville location in a four-story medical building owned by St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, which operated across the street before moving to O’Fallon last year.
“(The building is) hard to find,” Schifano said. “It’s hard to park, and it’s not convenient, especially for a pregnant patient. Here, it’s easy access, and it’s easy to walk into a one-story building.”
“We may consider putting a smaller satellite in Belleville, just so patients don’t have to drive,” he added.
Heartland’s expansion in Parkway 64 is one more step toward what some are calling the “medical mile” between the new St. Elizabeth’s and Memorial Hospital East, which opened two years ago in Shiloh.
It’s an amazing phenomenon to Shiloh mayor Jim Vernier, who remembers worrying in the mid-2000s about St. Clair County losing too many doctors.
“We’re very excited about what’s going on with the medical profession in Shiloh,” he said. “Everyone used to have to drive a ways to get treatment.”
Schifano has been on a fast track since 2001, when he opened his first OB-GYN office in Marion with satellites in Harrisburg, Anna and West Frankfort.
Today, Heartland has 23 locations in Southern Illinois and three in Missouri. Services are provided by about 50 doctors, nurse practitioners and midwives.
“Our active patients are in the 250,000 range,” Schifano said. “We have 5,000 annual births and about 150,000 annual office visits.”
Heartland’s growth reflects a national trend of smaller OB-GYN practices joining larger groups.
“They have struggled because of all the compliance issues and meaningful use of electronic medical records,” Schifano said. “They just can’t afford the overhead. It’s very difficult to remain viable.”
Heartland also prides itself on being as “consumer centric” as possible.
Services include ultrasounds for pregnant patients during every visit. Four-dimensional images are viewed at 20 weeks in “ultrasound theaters,” which are large rooms with big-screen monitors and carpeted risers that allow friends and family members to sit and watch the “show.”
“That’s complimentary,” said Jennifer Palubiak, marketing director.
Heartland provides “baby bytes” bracelets with compartments that hold USB devices, allowing ER personnel instant access to ultrasound images and other records of pregnant patients in case of emergency.
A systemwide support center handles calls days, nights and weekends. Heartland prints 10,000 calendars featuring photos of local babies each year. Most locations offer same-day appointments on request, and efficiency procedures are designed to keep wait times short.
“Our target is to get our patients in and out within an hour,” Schifano said.
Schifano is a Chicago native who earned a bachelor’s degree at University of Illinois and a master’s at Roosevelt University before going to medical school at Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency and practiced while serving eight years in the U.S. Army.