It takes a village to deliver better health care.

That, at least, is the thinking behind Hackensack Meridian Health’s Meridian Health Village at Jackson in New Jersey.

Meridian Health Village is a “consumer-centric, convenient, one-stop shop” for health consumers, said Rebecca Wolff, Hackensack Meridian director of strategy, during a Wednesday session at this year's Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development Connections conference in Chicago.

The village provides an array of health and wellness services at one location. A fitness center and physicians’ offices join a number of other outpatient facilities including a walk-in urgent care center, an ambulatory surgery center and a home for cancer care.

Planning began in 2005, when what then was Meridian Health — the central New Jersey system merged this summer with Hackensack University Health Network farther north — identified what it saw as an underserved need among a growing population of seniors and young families.

“Ultimately, we thought these people deserve better,” Wolff said of strategizing at Meridian at the time about the region’s health care landscape. “Clearly, there’s an opportunity for improvement. How do we make a difference?”

The 150,000-square-foot village opened in 2014–2015 — work on the project had been slowed by the financial crisis of 2008, Wolff said — with a focus on bringing private health care services and services that are traditionally limited to hospitals all under one roof in an easily accessible environment.

“We’re about making health care easier,” said Ryan Younger, vice president for marketing at Hackensack Meridian Health.

The sprawling, Y-shape building also houses imaging and laboratory services and wellness care and is a place for patients to go for screenings in a number of areas. Rehabilitation services are available, and the village includes a conference center, meeting rooms and a pharmacy.  

“When you hear about healthy, vibrant communities, that’s really a strategy that you’re going to need to shift into population health,” Younger said.

While Meridian Health Village at Jackson fit the overall strategy of the multihospital system in Ocean and Monmouth counties, there still was marketing to do to get the concept to work.

“There aren’t a lot of health care villages out in the marketplace,” Younger said.

Meridian used a phased approach to get the word out about the village, with emphasis on focus groups and digital channels of communication. Community engagement continues, with health fairs and outreach efforts in the Jackson Township area, inland from the Jersey Shore.

“Our key differentiators … were about our high quality, of course, but also about access to care,” Younger said.

Meridian also saw an opportunity in providing flexible, time-share space for physicians. “We knew there was not a one-size-fits-all answer,” Wolff said.

Specialty services were another key for the village, so it could provide care across the continuum.

Meridian’s move into consumerism wasn’t always easy. “It’s not like you can one day be known as an acute care hospital and the next day be known as a retail provider,” Younger said.

Wolff and Younger had a number of tips on developing an integrative care facility: Do your research, be consumer-centric and deliver on your overall goals. “The reason this is going to be successful is it’s part of a broader strategy about population health,” Younger said.

Hackensack Meridian Health includes 13 hospitals — two academic, two children’s and nine community hospitals — and has facilities at 200 locations in New Jersey, Wolff said.

The SHSMD conference wrapped up Wednesday with an address by motivational health care speaker Chip Madera.