KCMS President Eyes Wellness

January 28, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The new president of the Kent County Medical Society plans to use his position to preach prevention and wellness as ways to bring skyrocketing health care costs under control.

Dr. Wayne Creelman in particular wants to see insurers and managed-care companies become even more aggressive in providing financial incentives to physicians that actively engage their patients in wellness and health prevention measures to address issues such as obesity, smoking and alcoholism.

Such lifestyle choices, and the resulting health problems, are a major driver in rapidly rising health care costs.

“I’m going to be making as much noise and effort as I can to hopefully remind people about what they should be doing,” said Creelman, a psychiatrist and the medical director at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Everyone uses that cliché, but nobody believes it,” Creelman said. “Prevention and wellness, as major issues, will help the cost of health care in Michigan as people more and more buy into that.”

In the same vein, Creelman plans to make his top issue promoting the passage of mental health parity legislation in Michigan that would require insurers and managed-care companies to provide mental health benefits with medical benefits in a health plan.

The cost savings generated through the prevention of health problems resulting from mental health issues, including reduced worker absenteeism and improved morale and productivity in the workplace, far outweigh the additional “pennies” in cost to the heath plan, Creelman said. Thirty-five states have already passed such laws.

“Psychology lends itself to the world of prevention and the world of wellness,” Creelman said.

A Grand Rapids Township resident, the 51-year-old Creelman was installed Jan. 14 for a one-year term as Kent County Medical Society president.

In addition to his role at Pine Rest, Creelman serves as a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and director for medical student training in psychiatry for MSU at its Grand Rapids campus. He also serves on the board of directors for Michigan Psychiatric Society, Kent Medical Foundation, Pine Rest Mercy Care, Aurora Behavioral Health System and the Flowers Mill Homeowners Association.

As he preaches the benefits of prevention and wellness, Creelman believes physicians can do more to encourage patients to eat better, exercise, stop smoking and quit behaviors that hurt their health, cause disease and illness, and ultimately drive up costs for everybody.

He’d like to see physicians examine the processes they use at their medical practices so they have more time to spend with patients and talk to them about what they can do to better maintain their health.

“When you start talking about what’s really troubling people, it’s a very time-consuming event,” Creelman said.

To encourage physicians to do so, insurers and managed-care plans need to further develop and push financial incentives that reward physicians for initiatives and practices that are designed to keep people healthy and prevent medical problems, he said.

“Let’s keep the focus on keeping people healthy,” Creelman said. “Down the road, you really get a payoff on that.”

Employers interested in pursuing the formation of workplace wellness programs can obtain information from their local health department or through their health plan provider, Creelman said.

Insurers and managed-care companies over the years have increasingly launched wellness and prevention initiatives with employer members.

Subscribers of Priority Health, a Grand Rapids-based managed-care company with more than 400,000 members, can take advantage of programs to member companies on nutrition, smoking cessation and setting up a home exercise gym “on a shoestring budget,” said Rob Pocock, Priority Health’s vice president of marketing and communications.

The managed-care company also conducts on-site health fairs for employers, Pocock said.               

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