Kaiser Permanente will open a new medical facility in Lansdowne next year as part of a long-term strategy to double the number of patients it serves in the Mid-Atlantic region in the next decade.

The health care provider said Wednesday that the 130,000-square-foot building will take a one-stop-shopping, approach, with many specialty services offered under one roof, much like California-based Kaiser's facilities on the West Coast.

Kaiser also will build three other new facilities by 2013 in Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Va., and Washington. It will expand and renovate two other centers in the region, where it has 500,000 members.

"It's the culmination of a long-term strategy to truly bring integrated, highly coordinated primary and specialty care under one roof," said Marilyn Kawamura, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States Inc.

The new facilities will house a wide variety of specialty services along with primary care. Patients will be able to pick up prescriptions, get an X-ray or lab work completed and see a specialist all at one site.

The approach is part of growing movement to cut health costs through integrated and preventive care, and eliminating the need for patients to seek treatment in emergency rooms, where costs are the highest.

Many of the new services at the facilities will be offered around the clock, including 24-hour urgent care. Some also will offer 23-hour-stay clinical observation units for those suffering from severe asthma attacks and other illnesses who need monitoring but not necessarily a hospital stay, although it won't be offered at Lansdowne.

The 23-hour-stay units prevent Kaiser from having to pay to hospitalize a patient elsewhere, said Jeffrey C. Bauer, a Chicago-based medical economist.

Many medical systems are upgrading buildings and enhancing services as the health care market becomes more competitive. Health care reform has the potential to add thousands of people to the health rolls if it isn't weakened by the courts, where it faces numerous challenges.

Kaiser has expanded its footprint in regions around the country, adding neighborhood offices in the Atlanta metro area and moving into Northern Colorado.

In Maryland, the company has spent the past three years setting the foundation for expansion by beefing up its staff. It hired 350 specialists and primary care facilities as it looked to improve care. In the past, the company partnered with other medical systems and a patient might have had to see a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins or somewhere else. While it still will employ those partnerships, fewer patients will need to go outside Kaiser's system.

"We have been building programs in places to put these new experienced doctors we have brought into our medical system," said Bernadette Loftus, The Permanente Medical Group associate executive director for the mid-Atlantic states.

Kaiser could not say Wednesday how many additional workers it plans to hire when the Lansdowne facility opens in spring 2013.

The company also has upgraded some of the seven facilities it already has in the Baltimore region, including adding services to its center in Woodlawn.

Bauer said that during the debate over health care reform, Kaiser's approach was held up as an example of the direction that care was headed. It was one of the first systems to adopt a united electronic medical records system, an important aspect of health care reform.

"Everything that everybody brought up pointed to what Kaiser was already doing more than any other medical system," Bauer said.

In Maryland, Kaiser consistently ranks higher than the state average on more measures than any other HMO or PPO, in a report published annually by the Maryland Health Care Commission.

Richard Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute, said that it's a good time for Kaiser to expand as the country continues to steadily recover from the economic downturn.

"You snap up the good space and lower rents, and you're in a good position during the recovery," he said.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/ankwalker

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