West Penn Allegheny Health System brings office leasing concept to Peters Township

Encouraged by robust demand, West Penn Allegheny Health System is expanding an innovative office leasing concept at a new outpatient care center in Peters Township.

WPAHS’s 48,000-square-foot Outpatient Care Center recently acquired an additional 8,000 square feet of space, which will be built out and offered as flexible medical office space for doctors and other health care professionals, said Terry Wiltrout, interim president and CEO of Canonsburg General Hospital — a WPAHS hospital —who is overseeing the project.

The complex already has designated 3,000 square feet of existing space for the use, a flexible space concept more common in leasing to entrepreneurs and start-up companies. This space already is 85 percent leased, Wiltrout said. Leasing information was not available.

“We’re getting a lot of cold calls,” Wiltrout said. “You’re only paying for the time you come out and you’re there and seeing patients.

“The whole concept is to provide these specialty services in the community so patients don’t have to go into Pittsburgh.”

The outpatient care center, which opened in April, is WPAHS’s latest effort to take medical services into the communities it serves, and the financially wobbly hospital network is depending on such efforts to pump up patient referrals and return the system to financial viability. Included in the complex soon will be an 11,000-square-foot, five-bay ambulatory surgery center, scheduled to open in March.

Unlike standard medical offices, doctors and other health care professionals can lease space at the outpatient center in four-hour blocks, paying only for the time they have office hours, Wiltrout said. The new space will be built out and furnished with exam tables, weight scales, computers and other office equipment.

The flexible office space is open to both independent and doctors employed by WPAHS, Wiltrout said. A chiropractor, allergist, podiatrist, and pediatric ear nose and throat specialist are among the doctors who already have leased space.

But Dr. James Costlow, an internist with Monroeville-based Premier Medical Associates, worried the arrangement might undermine collaboration among providers, further fracturing how medical care is provided at a time when the reimbursement paradigm is shifting to increased cooperation.

“It’s not the building, it’s not the office, it’s the integration of services,” Costlow said. “If you put the doctors there and they don’t have this integrated level of service, then it doesn’t matter how much you charge them.”

But William Maruca, a lawyer who specializes in health care issues at the Downtown offices of Fox Rothschild LLP, said flexible medical office leasing has been used in the Pittsburgh area in years past.

“I know this was done a number of years ago in this market,” Maruca said. “I’m not aware of any of it going on now, but it seems to make a lot of economic sense.”