Waconia is home to what’s become a rarity these days — an independent health care system with its stethoscope on the pulse of its community.
But far from hanging on, Ridgeview Medical Center is growing, even thriving, in a county expected to experience the highest population and household growth rate in the metro area.
And the nonprofit has Carver County all to itself.
“They have been able to stay independent and stay successful because in part they own their geography,” said Allan Baumgarten, an independent analyst of health care markets. “It’s unusual and not common in the metropolitan area … where an independent hospital is still able to maintain their autonomy and have such a strong market position on that local geography.”
The nonprofit has 12 locations in the southwest metro, and its presence is expanding. The medical center is moving into Scott County through a partnership with the Lutheran Home Association to open a 100,000-square-foot campus in Belle Plaine in 2017 that will include a clinic, senior living space and a pharmacy.
To keep the competition from moving onto its turf, Ridgeview offered them a space to move in.
In 2011, Ridgeview opened a free-standing 24/7 urgent care and emergency care center — Two Twelve Medical Center — in Chaska. The center houses specialty clinics from its competitors, all under one roof.
“It’s a great example of a creative model that strengthens their system in our county,” Carver County Administrator Dave Hemze said.
The center is already five years ahead of its projections in volume.
Numbers have more than doubled Ridgeview’s original prediction of about 17,000 visits by 2016. Two Twelve is now projecting about 42,000 emergency and urgent care visits this year, said Bob Stevens, Ridgeview’s president and CEO.
About half of patients to urgent care are under 18.
“It’s really the hospital of the future,” Stevens said.
This past July, Ridgeview announced a joint venture with Minnesota Oncology to form a cancer and infusion center with locations in Chaska and Waconia. The two companies would merge their competing services as of September to form the center.
Ridgeview is a smaller health system compared with health giants Allina and HealthPartners, but that has not stopped the company from keeping up. Through innovative projects and partnerships, Ridgeview, the only remaining independent general acute care hospital in the Twin Cities area, is challenging itself to stay relevant. Ridgeview saw an increase in net patient service revenue to $226.3 million in 2015 from $214.8 million in 2014 — and from $158.1 million in 2011.
By contrast, Minneapolis-based Allina Health System saw revenue of more than $3.6 billion last year.
Ridgeview is collaborating with Minneapolis-based Carrot Health to assess community health needs in Carver County and examine demographics to help Ridgeview better understand how to serve its changing community.
“We have an innovative spirit here where we are open to looking at how to change the health care model and how to change the delivery system,” Stevens said.
Having the support of residents in the community, who have a median income of $86,000, has also played a role in Ridgeview’s success. The Ridgeview Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament in Waconia that has raised more than $10 million over the years. This year, the tournament raised $1.25 million.
“It’s first understanding the city and getting to know business leaders in the community,” Stevens said. “We strongly encourage employees to live in those cities and to give us feedback on what is happening. We want to actively engage the communities.”
Ridgeview’s partnership with Lutheran Home Association has helped the company ease into its move to the Belle Plaine community.
While they continue to expand, the company continues to strengthen its position in Carver County. Five years from now, Ridgeview plans on still having its independence.
“The day will come as soon as five years from now where someone will want to build a new hospital in that part of Carver County, and either it will be their system [Ridgeview] building the hospital or other hospitals partnering with them to build a hospital there,” Baumgarten said.