Mary Free Bed allied with Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

November 6, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids has announced a new “strategic affiliation” with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is ranked the No. 1 rehab hospital in the U.S., according to Mary Free Bed CEO Kent Riddle.

Mary Free Bed will benefit from RIC’s expertise in developing its own network in Illinois and Indiana over the past 20-plus years. Both hospitals also will benefit from cooperation in research and other innovations, according to an announcement released jointly Nov. 1 at a Mary Free Bed reception that included executives from both hospitals, plus other Michigan hospitals that are now members of the new Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network.

Specifics listed in the announcement are:

  • Teams from RIC will consult with Mary Free Bed as the Grand Rapids hospital expands its new network throughout Michigan.

  • Mary Free Bed patients in Grand Rapids will have the opportunity to participate in research trials launched by RIC.

  • Both organizations will benefit from sharing best practices related to process improvement, development of new rehab treatments and collaborative research.

“Our shared mission of restoring ability, hope and freedom to people with disabilities makes this affiliation a natural one,” said Riddle. “This alliance, as well as our network, will enable us to address critical issues of health care reform, reduce health care costs and add jobs.

“We are particularly looking forward to working with RIC on the development of our network,” he added. “RIC has had more than 20 years of experience in running the leading rehabilitation network in Illinois and Indiana, and we will benefit tremendously from its experience.”

The RIC network includes more than 42 sites providing inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Riddle said the alliance does not mean the two rehab hospitals will treat each other’s patients.

“They won’t be taking care of Mary Free Bed patients, and Mary Free Bed won’t be taking care of RIC’s patients,” said Riddle.

Nor will Mary Free Bed patients be going to Chicago to participate in RIC research; rather, RIC will extend its research to include Mary Free Bed patients in Grand Rapids.

RIC is “doing more (rehabilitation) research in the world than anyone else, by a long shot,” said Riddle. He said RIC has been ranked the No. 1 rehabilitation hospital in the world by U.S. News & World Report since 1991.

RIC is a 165-bed hospital founded in downtown Chicago in 1954 that has earned a worldwide reputation in patient care, advocacy, research and educating health professionals in physical medicine and rehabilitation, according to Mary Free Bed. The RIC staff treats complex conditions including spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke and cerebral palsy, as well as arthritis, chronic pain and sports injuries.

Mary Free Bed is “known around Michigan as providing the best outcomes to patients that need rehabilitation in Michigan, but we wanted to get to a higher level. This alliance will enable us to do that,” said Riddle.

Mary Free Bed officials anticipate the new strategic alliance with RIC, as well as its new rehabilitation network, will allow it to reduce inpatient costs approximately 10 percent by reducing the length of stays. Mary Free Bed also anticipates hundreds of new jobs over the next several years through the expansion of bed capacity and the ability to offer more rehab services.

Riddle said it is a proven fact that the more skilled, the more intensive and the more quickly a patient receives rehab therapy, the better the outcome for the patient. He said RIC has “clinical models that they will share with us — and only us — that deliver an even higher level of intensity (of treatment) than we already do with patients.” Riddle said that means patients will be able to go home sooner, rather than to a nursing home, and be better able to avoid re-admission.

“It’s going to have a dramatic positive effect on our own employment,” he said, noting that Mary Free Bed employment is already “10 percent higher than we were even in June.” Some of that hiring resulted from early meetings to discuss an alliance, according to Riddle. RIC gave Mary Free Bed advice “on things we needed to do to continue to improve our level of care,” he said, adding that Mary Free Bed’s nursing and therapy staff is about 20 percent higher for inpatient service than prior to June.

The hiring will extend to other Michigan communities as Mary Free Bed establishes more clinics and programs within its network.

“We are definitely on the march,” said Riddle.

Unveiled in June, the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network is an alliance of Michigan hospitals and providers formally integrated with an independent Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Mary Free Bed has long been recognized as the leading rehabilitation provider in Michigan,” said RIC’s CEO, Joanne C. Smith, M.D. “It is a true honor for RIC to now share our leadership with Mary Free Bed in this novel market approach and to leverage the knowledge and expertise of both institutes to the benefit of patient and family access to great care and great outcomes.”

Metro Health in Grand Rapids announced in September that it was the first hospital to join the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network. That was followed a few weeks later by an announcement from Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Zeeland that it had also joined the network.

“As the first member of the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network, Metro Health is committed to the principles of collaboration, sharing best practices and partnering with other innovative health care providers,” said Metro Health CEO Mike Faas. “As the leading rehabilitation hospital in the country, RIC brings incredible expertise and experience to West Michigan. We are sure RIC will be able to help tremendously with the development and expansion of the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network.”

Saint Mary’s Health Care president and CEO Phil McCorkle said that hospital applauds the announcement of the strategic alliance between Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and RIC. Mary Free Bed, which has 80 beds, is adjacent to Saint Mary’s Health Care, although there is no legal relationship between the two.

McCorkle said Mary Free Bed and RIC “are recognized leaders in the field of rehabilitative care. Mary Free Bed is leading the way in Michigan to establish collaborative initiatives such as this and partner with all hospital systems to provide exceptional rehab services.”

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