Undergoing intensive medical treatment can be a challenging experience, even without driving an hour or more to a major hospital. But patients in rural and exurban areas often have no other choice: They must commute long distances to receive specialized care.

To remedy this disparity in medical access, healthcare providers across the U.S. are building micro-hospitals in underserved areas. Smaller than full-service hospitals, but more comprehensive than free-standing emergency rooms, micro-hospitals are fully accredited facilities that operate 24 hours a day with an emergency department, a few inpatient beds, and outpatient services.

One of the nation’s newest micro-hospitals, a multispecialty care facility called UChicago Medicine Crown Point, opened in northwest Indiana in spring 2024. The primary goal was to expand the University of Chicago Medicine’s specialty care in the region, where market surveys showed 15% of the area’s residents traveled outside the area to receive medical care. Of that group, roughly one in five were patients of the academic health system.

“So many of our patients from northwest Indiana were traveling well over an hour to see specialty physicians at our main medical center in Hyde Park,” says Marco Capicchioni, vice president of facilities and support services at UChicago Medicine, referring to the system’s flagship hospital campus on Chicago’s South Side.

“Bringing inpatient and emergency care to northwest Indiana, along with specialized academic medicine—including physicians from our Comprehensive Cancer Center and our pediatric sub-specialists—enables us to take care of virtually all the community’s serious health care needs closer to home.”
Marco Capicchioni, Vice President of Facilities and Support Services at UChicago Medicine

In addition to bringing specialty services and clinical trials into the northwest Indiana community, UChicago Medicine Crown Point will also allow the organization to eventually consolidate smaller clinics it operated in the area into a single, full-service health center. The organization has a long history of operating in the region and also partners with other care providers in the area.

The initiative was announced in June 2021 and crews broke ground in August 2022, a fast-paced achievement aided by community support and collaboration with a healthcare real estate developer. When market trends require quick and decisive action, such partnerships expedite timelines, reduce financial risks, and empower medical providers to shape the building design to better serve their goals and the needs of patients and area residents.

Following a nationwide search, UChicago Medicine contracted with San Diego-based healthcare developer PMB to execute all aspects of the project, from locating and purchasing the land parcel to hiring and coordinating with the architecture firm and Walsh Construction.

“It’s really about shifting risk and all execution responsibilities to a third party,” says Jake Rohe, managing partner and president at PMB. “Healthcare institutions are in the business of delivering care in a very regulated and dynamic environment. Partnering with a dedicated healthcare developer can augment their resources and provide all the necessary controls to the health system. We can get the same project and scope of work to market faster and more efficiently, and we can do it at a better price point while still operating in a true partnership with the sponsoring health system.”

While PMB assumed the financial risks and dealt with institutional process, UChicago Medicine committed to a 15-year lease and provided crucial input on the building’s design. Architects guided UChicago Medicine’s medical and facilities teams through the programming and design decision-making process to ensure the facility was patient and family focused.

“They listened carefully to our faculty and staff to create an environment that would support everyone’s needs, both in the patient-facing areas and behind the scenes,” Capicchioni says. “They provided guidance and leadership as we navigated the plans for complex areas of the building, like the chemo-pharmacy, radiation oncology, clinical labs, and surgical center.”

The design team, led by Brad Hinthorne in Seattle and Jennifer Riddle Curley in Chicago, sought to create a patient-focused experience that reinforced UChicago Medicine’s identity and market-leading brand. The result is the two-story, 132,000-square-foot structure that is bright and welcoming, with a double-height entry that leads to imaging, ambulatory surgery, and the cancer center, which occupies two floors. Medical offices, building support, and shelled space for future growth occupy the remainder of the second floor. The eight-bed emergency department has its own entrance and waiting area adjacent to the main entrance.