By Nikki Ciecierski
In the heart of Happy Valley, Mount Nittany Health stands as a pillar of unwavering commitment to the well-being of the community it has served for over a century. With a vision firmly rooted in serving the community's evolving healthcare needs, Mount Nittany Health is making generational investments by constructing the new Patient Tower at the Medical Center and the Outpatient Center at Toftrees West, along with other infrastructure and technology improvements. We had the privilege of sitting down with their Chief Strategy and System Development Officer, Kurt Kissinger, to delve into these projects' significance and alignment with Mount Nittany Health's mission and vision.
We are reinvesting in the community… that is part of our legacy, and that is who we are at Mount Nittany Health.
Chief Strategy and System Development Officer, Kurt Kissinger
A legacy of care and community focus
There is a long-standing value in a community hospital that continues to thrive in health care today. "I always start with who we are and where we have been,” Kissinger said. “We are a community healthcare system with a 120-year legacy with a simple mission—Healthier people. Stronger community.”
“The system has grown the number of locations across the region and increased its investments in technology to evolve with the community's changing needs. Each advancement is intended to create best-in-class care environments,” he continued. “We are focused on delivering our mission to better serve the community's needs, specifically with access. We are investing more than half a billion dollars back into the community with these projects."
He pointed out that the Outpatient Center at Toftrees West is a much-needed investment to address the healthcare system's capacity issues. "The Outpatient Center is a much-welcomed investment in our care environments. We are out of space, and as the region's largest multispecialty healthcare system, we needed the capacity," Kissinger shared. "The Center will house 11 medical specialties. It is designed to bring those together, enhance clinical programming and expand access to care in our community."
As for the new Patient Tower, Kissinger shared details about its patient-centric design and purpose. "The new patient tower is a 300,000 square foot, ten-story tower adjacent to the hospital,” he explained. “It features 168 private rooms, created to provide a best-in-class therapeutic healing environment which is patient-centered, and a patient-focused facility makes for a better work environment."
We are a community healthcare system with a 120-year legacy with a simple mission—Healthier people. Stronger community.
He described how the design incorporated elements of the serene outdoors of Happy Valley, with color palettes and natural lighting, using field stone and wood-colored finishes to reflect the outdoor environment and create a therapeutic setting. This effort is amplified by incorporating floor-to-ceiling windows in all our patient rooms to further bring the beauty of this area into our patient care areas. “The natural beauty of Happy Valley is why people love it here,” he said. “With that in mind, our healthcare providers and staff played an active role in developing this space. It's a $350 million project to open in 2026."
Each project is framed around the patient experience. "The new facilities will provide more convenience and comfort with the patient in mind,” Kissinger said. “This is also reflected in the types of amenities in the tower, from the private patient rooms, gathering spaces and a relaxed environment to the dining facilities and the opportunity to connect with the outdoor environments.
“It is no longer that you just have functional walls and equipment— the attention to these details allows patients and visitors to be at ease and calm and better focus on their care... the two are intertwined."
Empowering healthcare and sustainability through technology
Discussing the technology aspect of these projects, Kissinger touched upon the significance of the dark fiber installation. "The dark fiber project is significant in enabling technology,” he said. “We have installed over 200 miles of fiber optics to connect remote sites to increase reliability, speed and security.”
In addition, a new data center is being added to further support the system’s growth. "A new data center will also help create greater redundancy and will include power, data closets, generators, UPS, etc.,” Kissinger said.
New technology is being added to support clinical programming. “We will be adding a new DaVinci robot,” he shared. “We are also looking at how to apply AI specifically in the diagnostic space. In cancer care, for example, recently deployed AI technology can ingest pathology and radiology reports and physician notes to look for incidental findings that can help detect cancer cases earlier."
A key component to continuing to grow with the community is sustainability. "We are investing in 14 electric vehicle stations. Upgraded LED lighting that is Energy Star certified, and we harvest as much daylight as possible in the facilities to add natural lighting in the care environments."
Mount Nittany Health is committed to staying at the forefront of healthcare innovation. "The constant cycle of new technology and best-in-class design changes quickly, but we strive to anticipate the future while being strategic in how we deploy our investments to focus on patient care."
We are also looking at how to apply AI specifically in the diagnostic space. In cancer care, for example, recently deployed AI technology can ingest pathology and radiology reports and physician notes to look for incidental findings that can help detect cancer cases earlier.
Contributing to economic growth
Projects this size impact the local economy during construction and beyond. "During construction, there is temporary economic benefit resulting from the contractors and workers engaged in the project,” Kissinger said. “Many work in the community and spend their dollars right here. Long term, the project allows us to contribute to the health and economic vibrancy of the community by allowing us to grow—recruiting providers, physicians and support staff.”
“While not directly measurable, but equally important, we serve the needs of the business community here by taking care of the health care needs of their workers,” he continued. “These investments are a bonus when it comes to recruiting. When organizations want to relocate, quality of local education and healthcare systems often tops the list of considerations—and we offer best-in-class for both.”
Mount Nittany Health is committed to ongoing engagement with the local community. "We participate in partnership with local community and service organizations in assessing the community’s health needs through our Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), which gets updated every three years,” Kissinger said, “but beyond that, we are constantly engaged with groups, businesses and a board of directors that is reflective of the community—they live, work and raise their families here.”
The Outpatient Center is a much-welcomed investment in our care environments. We are out of space, and as the region's largest multispecialty healthcare system, we needed the capacity
Mount Nittany Health's investments in the community, infrastructure and technology reflect their unwavering dedication to providing exceptional healthcare while nurturing a thriving community in Happy Valley. "Our roots in the community and our legacy are also our future. This is our home,” Kissinger concluded. “We are reinvesting in the community… that is part of our legacy, and that is who we are at Mount Nittany Health."