Hospitals Look To Future

April 25, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Heads of the area’s three hospitals discussed the future of health care Monday and outlined their plans to make Grand Rapids a health care hub.

Richard Breon, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, said Spectrum’s vision is to be the very best, the highest quality and most successful health-care organization by the year 2010.

Spectrum is part of the economic engine of this community, he told members of the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. With more than 13,000 employees, it’s the largest employer in West Michigan. Next year, Spectrum’s payroll will top $600 million and net operating revenues will surpass the $2 billion mark, he pointed out.

Breon said that if Grand Rapids is to be positioned as a “destination place” for health care, it has to achieve recognition outside the local area. Spectrum has received more than 40 national quality awards, awards that “clearly recognize that Grand Rapids has something special in health care,” he said.

Spectrum serves the region through nine hospitals. Breon pointed out that Spectrum has invested significantly in development along

Michigan Street
, with the Fred and LenaMeijerHeartCenter that opened last November and the Spectrum Health Regional Cancer Network facility, which opens this fall. Later this fall, Spectrum’s new 400,000-square-foot DeVos Children’s Hospital will began taking shape on
Michigan Street
, as well. Other initiatives include a planned joint replacement center at the hospital’s Blodgett campus.

“All of these things are part of a destination vision — how to bring people to Grand Rapids. But it’s not just about brick and mortar, it’s about how we treat patients and how we surround patients with the technology,” Breon said.

He suggested that what will make people come to Grand Rapids is the health-care value provided here.

“We’re the lowest charge in Michigan for heart procedures. We’re the lowest charge in the nation for children’s specialty care. It is part of our vision to make sure that we remain the lowest.”

Spectrum is looking at ways to take cost out of the health system and has set a goal of a $50 million reduction in costs over the next five years.

Health care is turning more and more toward evidence-based medicine, which is safer and of higher quality, Breon noted. Spectrum is also looking at ways it might integrate with other institutions and at improvements that could be made in information technology to assure better information flow between all the different parties in health care.

“We have to make sure people’s information flows with them everywhere they go,” Breon remarked.

Michael Faas, president and CEO of Metropolitan Hospital, said Metro recently polled community leaders to determine how they saw the future of Metro.

“Most of what we heard confirmed our strategy, especially to continue to focus on primary and secondary care.”

Faas said the hospital is filling that request with the 170-acre MetroHealthVillage, a new pedestrian-friendly hospital complex that will open in 2007 near the new M-6 expressway.

MetroVillage will have several “zones,” including a 60-acre hospital zone, a fitness center, a retail center, a hotel, medical offices and an “able-to-play park,” the first park in the area that’s dedicated to people with physical limitations.

He said MetroVillage will be LEED certified, will have a more efficient layout and will offer improved quality and safety in an evidenced-based healing environment. The campus also gives Metro the potential to create cooperative partnerships with other health-care related tenants, he added.

Metro began transitioning to lean management techniques last August and estimates that it will save $1 million in reduced performance time during MetroVillage’s first year of operation. Faas said Metro’s vision is to “take health care to a better place” and the hospital’s goal is to provide the best experience for its patients, its employees, its physicians and the community.

Faas believes that with more prevention and health-care promotion, people will begin to take their lifestyle patterns more seriously and do something about it.

“Obviously, helping people be more healthy so they don’t need health care in the first place is the best way to save money.”

Philip McCorkle, president and CEO of Saint Mary’s Health Care, echoed some of the same sentiments. He, too, said health care in the future has to focus on prevention.

“We must be diligent about providing screenings and immunizations so our focus becomes more on prevention and less on what happens when we don’t.”

In response to the business owner who worries about escalating health-care costs, McCorkle said the health-care system must streamline its processes, implement lean systems and find ways to do work more efficiently. He predicts that within a few years electronic medical records systems will be the norm.

McCorkle believes the health system would also benefit by forging better relationships between physicians, hospitals and insurance providers. That would include working in partnership with physicians to improve patient safety and clinical quality through technology, he said.

People are living longer, healthier lives because of new treatments and advances in technology, he said, and health care must continue to develop new ways to cure disease, treat illness and improve the quality of patients’ lives.    

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