Mercy’s Renovation Turns Austintown Office into One-Stop Shop

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – A four-month renovation at Austintown Primary Care is working to align the office with one of Mercy Health’s key missions: improving access to care.

Before work began last fall, patients at the site, 5533 Mahoning Ave., had access to primary care physicians, general surgery and physical therapy – all in different suites across two floors of the building. Now, podiatry, orthopedics, ear, nose and throat care, radiology and phlebotomy have been added to the mix, with all operating in the same second-floor office now dubbed Austintown Medical Center. 

“If your primary care doctor wants to send you out for a general surgery consult, then you have to drive to another office, find that office and set up an appointment,” says Missy Russo, Mercy’s director of primary care. “Here, it’s the next office over. There’s no getting back in your car and driving to the laboratory or X-ray.” 

Previously, patients needing an X-ray or blood work done would have to drive up Mahoning Avenue to Mercy’s freestanding emergency department. Now, getting those procedures done is a walk down the hallway.

In terms of patient care, the proximity also means better communication between doctors, Russo says. 

“If I’m a primary care doctor and have questions about if I really need to send a patient to you, I can walk over and ask how I should proceed or even things like if we should do X-rays or lab work first. The specialist, then, can have all of that done before they even see the patient,” she says.

The new, larger office also provides more space for physical and occupational therapy, allowing patients to get treatments after diagnosis. In the room, still getting its final touches, are free weights, weight machines, wooden stairs, elastic bands and plenty of other tools therapists can use to help patients get back to life as normal.

“What’s most important is getting you back to your daily life. That can be getting you to work, getting you back to your activities, getting you back to your family. We want to make sure we have the resources to do that here for our patients,” Russo says.

Missy Russo, Mercy Health-Youngstown’s director of primary care, inside the new physical and occupational therapy space at Austintown Medical Center.

The expansion in Austintown follows a similar model Mercy Health has used at its medical centers in Howland and North Lima. There aren’t any major differences in how they function, Russo says – perhaps the largest is that the Austintown and Howland sites have automated check-in systems patients can use, while North Lima doesn’t. But Mercy has learned from its previous medical centers to hone in on which services need to be offered.

“We’ve gotten better at figuring out which services are needed. Things like general surgery or ear, nose and throat are better at succeeding alongside primary care. The information we’ve gotten from patients has been used as we develop them,” she says.

The decision to make the expansion at the Austintown office is no accident. For years, Mercy Health has been working to push health care into the communities it serves. That’s meant the addition of walk-in clinics, primary care offices and a vast network of specialists. In some places, that means the addition of medical centers. After work is wrapped up on the Austintown Medical Center – sometime in the coming weeks as the final specialties get moved in – Mercy will begin on a similar site in Sebring, its first foray into southwestern Mahoning County.

It’s a move, says chief operating officer Rod Neill, that is similar to the health-care system’s expansion into Columbiana County that started a few years ago.

“Up until three years ago, we really didn’t have any presence in Columbiana County and now I’d say it’s extremely strong,” he says. “In some of the smaller communities in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, we’ve added a presence as well. … Not only are we putting primary care close to where you live, but we’re putting a general surgeon, a cardiologist, an orthopedic surgeon close too.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.