In 2017 alone, a handful of major health care-related facilities either opened or announced agreements to build in the area.
Baylor Scott & White opened Round Rock’s first cancer center in September, adjacent to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Round Rock, and broke ground Pflugerville’s first medical center in February. Both Seton Family of Hospitals and St. David’s HealthCare have opened extended-hours urgent care facilities in the past several months.
The Heart Hospital of Austin opened a location at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center in 2015. Then in October 2016, St. David’s HealthCare opened the St. David’s Surgical Center on Louis Henna Boulevard.
Round Rock’s outreach extends to medical research and health care manufacturing as well. InSys Therapeutics Inc., a nationwide pharmaceutical research firm, invested $24 million in a facility to be constructed in the Avery Centre off University and A.W. Grimes boulevards. InSys will soon be joined by Veridia Diagnostics, a facility operated by Singulex Inc., a medical diagnostics company. Singulex will build a 36,000-square-foot facility and immediately employ 100 people by the time its doors open by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
All of these companies, from hospitals to pharmacies, bring more than employees— they bring secondary employment, medical students and development.
Direct and indirect employment
Kate Henderson, president of Seton Medical Center Williamson, calls the environment surrounding hospitals a “health care ecosystem.”
“There are people who are making food and running our facility, changing the lightbulbs and fixing the roof,” Henderson said. “There are folks who are neurosurgeons, advanced-practice physicians, laboratory scientists—the full range—businesspeople and accountants, too.”
That ecosystem also historically extends beyond the grounds of a health care facility’s campus. Medical centers can provide indirect employment with work that is not provided by the hospital, such as food delivery or pest control, according to Henderson.
A closer look reveals two distinct types of businesses that develop nearby Round Rock’s hospitals and medical centers: pharmacies and physician offices.
There are six Walgreens pharmacies in Round Rock, and five of them are located within 1 mile of a hospital, medical center or urgent care facility, while four of the six CVS locations in Round Rock are also located within a mile of a hospital, medical center or urgent care facility, according to the companies’ websites.
“That proximity was planned,” said Jeremy Barclay, CEO of St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center. “As patients leave the hospital they typically go home with medication scripts they need to fill.”
St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center started in 1983 as a community hospital with approximately 75 beds but has since expanded to a Level II Trauma medical center with 171 beds, and Barclay stated the staff has quadrupled in size since the facility first opened.
Barclay said he has watched Round Rock turn into a “medical hub” that includes surgery centers, dialysis clinics, physical therapy clinics, a “tremendous amount” of physicians and more.
“Round Rock has always seen itself as a health care and bioscience leader for the region,” said Ben White, vice president of economic development for the Round Rock Chamber.
White commented that a growing health care community helps to attract prospective companies across the board, but a health care presence as large as the one found in Round Rock inevitably draws more and more medical companies. In a sense, health care begets health care, and White expects specialty medical care to keep expanding within Round Rock.
Sectors of the expanding health care industry may be a reaction to market needs as well. At least seven retirement and assisted-living communities have either opened in the past year or are scheduled to open sometime in 2018 in Round Rock, Pflugerville or Hutto, according to listings the communities have posted on their websites. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, Williamson County saw its 2016 percentage of senior-aged residents rise by close to 2 percent since 2012.
To supplement the growing sphere of health care operations in Round Rock, several medical and nursing schools have set up shop in the area. Texas A&M Health Science Center opened its first building in 2009 followed a year later by St. David’s School of Nursing at Texas State University and the Austin Community College Round Rock campus’ Allied Health Sciences Department.
But even as Round Rock’s campuses attract more and more students in health care fields, Williamson County is experiencing a nursing shortage—a trend that is projected to continue into the coming decades.
According to a 2015 report co-authored by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Williamson County is below the state average for the number of nurses per 100,000 residents in 24 of 27 nursing categories. A 2016 report from the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies projects that Central Texas will be close to 10,000 nurses short of meeting the area’s nursing demands by 2030.
2018 and beyond
Round Rock and Pflugerville will continue to see their health care industries expand in 2018.
Construction will move forward on both the InSys Therapeutics and Post Acute Medical Rehabilitation Hospital facilities in Round Rock. The latter aims to start service sometime in 2019. Singulex and its 100 employees will begin medical diagnostics operations sometime at the end of the first quarter of 2018.
In Pflugerville, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Pflugerville will open in the fall. The medical center will be Pflugerville’s first hospital and will bring with it a primary care clinic, doctors and physicians.
Austin Regional Clinic expects to open two new facilities in the area by fall 2018, one in northwest Round Rock off FM 1431 and another in Pflugerville just north of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Pflugerville. The clinics will offer an array of services, including pediatric care, laboratory space and exam rooms.
Despite the expansion of the health care community in Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, there are still several unmet medical needs in the communities. Both Henderson and Barclay noted that Williamson County as a whole is lacking sufficient behavioral health care.
Still, residents of each city will soon have the ability to stay in their community for many medical procedures that would have required travel to Austin or Houston only a decade ago, such as Level II Trauma care or advanced cancer treatment.
“Ten years ago, maybe downtown Austin felt a bit closer. But today it doesn’t feel that close,” Henderson said. “Most of us want to receive our health care where we live.”
This story is one update from The January Issue. View the full list of Top 10 stories to follow in 2018 here.