Healthcare Forum Addresses Challenges of Delivering Quality Health Care

News Healthcare-ForumThere are two challenging and related issues that Lansing’s business community puts at the top of its list of concerns. “If it’s not health care, it’s talent,” said Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tim Damon, as he opened the organization’s annual Healthcare Forum, which explored how both issues complement one another.

Successful communities require high quality medical facilities supporting health care providers, Damon said, adding that fortunately Lansing has them. But the challenge of delivering quality health care is daunting and is likely to be well into the future. Success requires innovation, training, finances and facilities, said speakers at the October forum.

And there are some structural issues that must be addressed quickly if the region is to retain the wellness support it expects and will need.

“I believe we are facing a physician shortage, a shortage of physician assistants and of nurses,” said Dr. Marsha Rappley, Dean of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. The problem, she explained, is too few training opportunities for medical school graduates. “The limiting factor for physicians in Michigan is that there are not enough residency programs. We have more doctors graduating, but they are not going to be staying in the state.”

She explained that health system hospitals are where medical school graduates train, citing MSU, which she said has 15 residency programs throughout the state. But funding for this phase of medical education has been declining and some hospitals are closing residency programs. “This is something that has to change,” she said, suggesting that shortening the length of programs might
help somewhat.

A more positive trend in medical care cited by Rappley was the shift to collaborative and integrated medical services. “We see the big trend in team work,” she added. “The physician has to work with the nurses and PAs.”

It reflects what is happening at Sparrow Health System, according to its Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Ruth, who delivered the keynote address.

He indicated that Sparrow and physician leaders are currently developing the Sparrow Care Network, a clinically integrated organization which it expects to put in place in 2015. The goal is to improve the quality and efficiency of care by focusing on the way care is delivered at Sparrow, how the system and its medical staff interact, and how physicians interact and relate to each other. The initiative seeks to transform the way physician systems deliver high quality care at the lowest possible cost.

Many of the speakers at the forum focused on the quality and delivery of health care, a segment on “Innovators in Healthcare” reinforced the businesses and economics that support patient care.

Nevin Brittain, the founder of Health Numeric in East Lansing, talked about his firm’s support service that provides comprehensive at-home monitoring and produces reports for medical providers, families and others. Ryan Jankovic of TheraB Medical Inc., also based in East Lansing, had a presentation highlighting a portable phototherapy garment designed to treat infant jaundice. While Gordon Maniere, founder of Advanced Amputee Solutions, presented a program on his development of specialized devices to help amputees adjust more positively to prosthetics.

All three are small firms seeking a niche in the sprawling health care industry. As speakers at the forum noted, health care isn’t just about wellness. It’s also about jobs. Michigan State University operates medical units throughout the state and in all but Lansing, these are the largest employers in their communities, said Rappley.

Damon offered this context: 87,000 total health care jobs in Mid-Michigan — 54,000 of them direct with an annual payroll of $3.3 billion; the other 33,000 are indirect with a payroll of $4.6 billion.


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