Trinity plan is good for area business

February 5, 2010
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Trinity Health’s work to create a regional health care system among its hospitals is important, not only for the savings built into collaboration but for its strength as a system and for the market choice. It is also necessary as its competitor is increasingly viewed as a bully monopoly, increasingly cavalier in regard to its community commitments or involvement in community partnerships that have helped rein in Grand Rapids area health care costs.

The strength of programs and specialties at both Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon assists the system in recruitment of physicians and health care professionals, with particular emphasis on their expanding cancer, neurological disease and heart expertise.

The Trinity regional network also includes health care systems in Battle Creek, Cadillac and Grayling. The new strategic plan binds connections between the five systems, and most importantly, creates the connection of medical records and computer networking, allowing specialists to manage consultations for patients at all hospitals. The medical records system provides far better patient case management and provides cost savings in eliminating redundancies in tests and procedures. Saint Mary’s has been a leader in medical records systems and access. That’s especially good news for business owners who should expect to find savings in the process, slowing the incessant double-digit health care benefit plan increases.

The network of physicians also provides alignment for the hospitals, and provides some promise against the often-cited looming shortage of physicians, particularly in rural areas.

Spectrum Health over the past several months has negotiated the merger of the for-profit Michigan Medical PC physicians group, folding in physicians who were aligned with other health care systems, including the D.O.-based Metro Health, as well as Saint Mary’s. The Medical Mile player also has requested Michigan Department of Community Health approval for a heart transplant system by 2011. Spectrum has indicated in state reporting it expects to make a profit on the procedure by its second year of operation.

Whether these developments will decrease or increase the cost of health care at Spectrum, according to insurance analysts, lies in whether Spectrum is able to reduce redundancies and whether the health system is patient focused rather than focused on its business units, including Priority Health. That requires transparency, to which Spectrum has not yet committed.

The Business Journal must also note here that Spectrum officials were not forthcoming with the cost overruns related to its construction of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The project in 2006 was estimated at $190 million but last November Spectrum acknowledged the facility will cost $292 million.

The ability to manage health care costs are this region is certainly predicated on choices within the market place as well as transparency and system consolidations. So, too, are the partnerships that make this region uniquely West Michigan.

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