IU Health was poised and ready to jump into the Fort Wayne health care market with its new primary care office Aug. 1.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to be in the Fort Wayne marketplace,” Ron Stiver, president of system clinical services, said. “It’s our goal to make Indiana one of the healthiest states in the country.”
The health system’s new facility on Engle Road still smells like new carpet and the tiles are virtually unscuffed. Two nurses’ stations, only one of which is running right now, and 20 exam rooms were ready and waiting for the expected onslaught of patients to arrive with its August opening.
For its first foray into the Fort Wayne area, IU Health has locked in on establishing a primary care practice, citing the city as one of the biggest needs for northeast Indiana patients. As Dr. Geoff Randolph, chief medical officer for IU Health’s growing Fort Wayne branch, noted, the average wait time to see a primary care doctor in Fort Wayne is six to eight weeks. Randolph and IU Health hope to change that.
“We know that there is a deficiency of primary care doctors in this region,” Randolph said. “Not only that, but we understand primary care is the nucleus of care. That’s where it starts for virtually every patient.”
As a resident of Fort Wayne for 31 years, Randolph recalled a time when the presence of health care systems was bigger and the competition drove doctors and the systems as a whole to raise their levels of care and accessibility. With IU Health setting up shop in a community long dominated by Lutheran Health Network and Parkview Health, the group sees this as a chance to re-ignite that competitive motivation.
“It was a very healthy and competitive environment where all of us I think rose in the process of being in the market with each other,” Randolph said. “This is a really exciting time to bring new things to Fort Wayne and to bring easy access and high quality care which is the reputation IU has to offer.”
Stiver reported that the first few days of operation are already filling up with online appointment registrations.
To start, according to Randolph, IU Health is staffing the clinic with one primary care doctor — IU School of Medicine Fort Wayne graduate Dr. John Tan — and one nurse practitioner. A physician’s assistant and a handful of technicians will also be onsite.
The small staff is not expected to stay that way for long, though. Stiver advised that IU Health was taking a “staged” approach to staffing, meaning that as the patient base grows, the group will gradually recruit or transfer more doctors to work at the practice. Randolph predicted that there should be about six primary care doctors from IU working in Fort Wayne by the end of the year.
Growth is not expected to happen only at its new location on Engle Road, though.
“It’s an important milestone,” Stiver said. “But it should really be indicative of a long-term commitment to the Fort Wayne market and the broader region.”
Stiver stated that IU Health had a few properties under its ownership, including land bought during a transaction from Parkview in March, but that no decisions had been made yet as to where or when they intend to build more facilities.