Health Care Maintains Its 'Big Story' Status

December 20, 2007
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This year already promises opportunities for new accomplishments, a continued, mind-numbing pace of technical and scientific advancement … and unending rhetoric aimed at “health care.” With Presidential nominating conventions little more than six months away, health care businesses are likely to have new concerns (see story on page 17). Readers are reminded of the HQ interview with Paul Farr, M.D., in the July 2006 issue, reported as he completed his term as president of the Michigan State Medical Society.

Farr then commented, “The pressure on the business community is tremendous. But what’s to choose: stay in business or pay for health care? We’re killing our business community. We’re killing our patients by not providing the right care at the right time.” Farr suggested universal health care coverage, but from a variety of sources including private insurance and government subsidies.

It is also interesting that West Michigan readers have a front-row seat to some of the technical and scientific advances being made in health care, advances likely to have ramifications in terms of costs. One development thought to be especially promising is the Center for Molecular Medicine, a joint venture between the Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health. The center conducts trials for diagnostics and pharmaceutical companies using the latest molecular technologies. Three commercial contracts have been signed, and five others were anticipated at HQ deadline. The mission is to better match drug therapies to a patient’s unique need. The success of such matches — and all of the required research — ultimately results in fewer attempts to match the patient to a specific treatment. While that is vastly understated, it could result in fewer prescription needs and faster recovery. Such “personalized medicine” is considered “a very big deal” at the VAI, according to its chairman and CEO David Van Andel.

Van Andel writes more precisely of the research and challenges, and issues a call to action to the business community in his column (see page 28), “to see clearly that we are rapidly evolving away from a reactive standard of health care toward a more proactive approach.”

Another agreement signed last month also has long-term promise. Michigan State University Bioeconomy Research & Commercialization Center in Holland is expected to reinvigorate the state’s economic base with the development of new bioeconomic industries. The center will focus on biofuel research, biomaterials and biochemicals. The old Pfizer facility will also house a bio-economy incubator, in which several businesses reportedly have requested space.

Exactly half of the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s top 10 economic stories (Newsmakers) for 2007 are related to health care. Another of those with continuing interest in 2008 will certainly be review of the proposed merger between Muskegon’s Mercy General Health Partners and Hackley Health.

We’ll keep you posted.

—Carole Valade

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