Michigan Association of Health Plans

Here’s how $1.5B will change health care in Greater Lansing

Originally published by Lansing State Journal

Editors note: The time frame during which $1.5 billion in health care-related investment in the Lansing area will occur has been updated in this story. 

LANSING — Health care-related industries in Lansing have launched $1.5 billion in investment projects in the past two years.

That includes Sparrow Health System’s $64 million Herbert Herman Cancer Center, McLaren Greater Lansing’s planned $450 million hospital adjacent to Michigan State University and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on MSU’s campus.

But new facilities don’t just mean that Lansing residents will have better access to top-of-the-line cancer care or that local hospitals will have a better shot at attracting the best workers.

It also could potentially help attract even more health care-related businesses to the area, said Keith Lambert, the vice president of business attraction for the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. The area already has companies working with nuclear medicine and medical devices, he said, and health system investment could attract even more interest in those fields.

“I think we’re kind of a sleeping giant in these realms,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with awareness and getting the word out.”

The uptick in health care-related investment an important step in creating more economic opportunities in Lansing for all industries, Lambert said. Having a strong health care system is an important recruiting tool for any business, he said. Access to health care is an indication of good quality of life.

“It’s going to be a fascinating thing,” Lambert said. “There’s exponential potential for growth in the future.”

More business development is just one of the impacts of a changing health care scene. Here are three others:

New facilities

By 2021, McLaren Greater Lansing will consolidate operations at its two south Lansing facilities into one $450 million hospital on what was once farm land near Michigan State University, the hospital announced in December.

The new health care campus will be developed on land acquired from the MSU Foundation in the foundation’s University Corporate Research Park between Collins Road and US 127 south of Forest Road.

McLaren has been conducting focus groups with patients, their family members and community members to get feedback on how to best design the new facility. Work on the project should be completed by 2021.

The new campus will have 240 beds, a cancer center and an ambulatory care center. McLaren expects to add about 80 employees when the campus opens and to fill about 75 present openings. McLaren Greater Lansing has close to 2,000 employees.

An estimated 2,500 one-year jobs will be created during the construction process.The new facility will be nine stories tall and have 18 operating rooms, according to current plans. McLaren’s Lansing facilities at 401 W. Greenlawn Ave. and 2727 S. Pennsylvania Ave. are to be redeveloped, but official plans haven’t been announced.

Along with better serving its patients, the new hospital will also help McLaren recruit employees in a competitive health care market, said Kirk Ray, the CEO and president of McLaren Greater Lansing.

“What health care employee or clinical caregiver wouldn’t want to work in a state-of-the-art facility?” he said. “There’s not a lot of hospitals or health systems around that are building state-of-the-art facilities like we’re going to be doing.”

Dennis Swan, Sparrow’s president and CEO, echoed Ray. He said facilities can play a key role in attracting the best employees.

Along with Sparrow’s new cancer center, the hospital opened a 4,000-square-foot addition to its lobby that included upgrades to its dining space in the summer of 2016. Sparrow also added a Starbucks a year later, among other renovations to the lobby.

“Without question fine facilities help you recruit and retain top-notch people,” Swan said. “And let’s face it, it’s a very competitive market.”

Urgent care, fast care options expand

Health systems are increasingly expanding their fast care and urgent care options.

Sparrow opened its first fast care in June 2015 and opened an urgent care with 10 exam rooms across from its main campus on Michigan Avenue in March. The new facility also has two procedure rooms and is equipped to perform X-rays.

Sparrow also has urgent care facilities in East Lansing, Grand Ledge and Mason. They are designed to treat minor cuts and broken bones, sprains, coughs, colds, skin rashes and fevers. The facilities are designed to provide more convenience for patients, said Joe Ruth, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Sparrow.

“It’s empowering the patient,” he said. “It’s on their terms and their time.”

Visiting urgent cares and fast cares can also keep patients out of expensive ER visits and could help doctors catch expensive issues early.

“We’ve got to be more cost effective,” Swan said. “It is really important that we deliver better value.”

Sparrow isn’t unique. Hospitals all over have made expanding access a priority,  said Laura Wotruba, director of public affairs for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.

“This is a national trend,” she said. “I think it’s really about hospitals going though this process of evaluating and reevaluating their patient needs.”

Dr. Ed Rosick, a family medicine physician and an associate professor in Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, said urgent cares can give patients more affordable access to care and keep them away from costly trips to the emergency room, but it’s important that hospitals use urgent cares and fast cares to connect patients to primary care physicians.

“When patients have a relationship with a primary care provider all aspects of health are better,” he said. “It’s just human nature.”

Growth in telemedicine

From diagnosis to treatment, experts agree that telemedicine is going to be a growing piece in health care delivery. More employer health plans are offering telemedicine coverage, and employees are increasingly enrolling in plans that cover the service, according to new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Telemedicine is the use of technology to provide clinical health care at a distance. Along with improvements to technology, part of the uptick in telemedicine use is due to strengthened broadband services, said Jim Lee, Michigan Health and Hospital Association’s vice president for data policy.

“I think you will continue to see the growth in telehealth technology and telemedicine in general for as long as technology continues to increase and expand,” he said. “Things we might not traditionally have seen or thought of from a telemedicine perspective, I think you’ll start seeing that more and more.”

Telemedicine will help especially be beneficial for older people and rural residents, giving them better access to care, said Wotruba of the hospital association. But she said telemedicine also will help the general public get better connected with specialists. And she said it’s likely that telemedicine will play a larger role in behavioral health care.

In Lansing, both McLaren and Sparrow have technology that allows patients see specialists virtually. The new McLaren hospital will have a room equipped exclusively for those types of visits, Ray said.

He said its not always cost effective to have certain specialists on staff and the virtual visits will help alleviate that issue, he said.

Ray said McLaren plans to launch a virtual visit option in which patients can access a doctor with their phones 24/7 sometime next year. The new option is a way to give a patients more convenience in accessing care, he said.

“It creates a new access point for those patients that are unattached or don’t have a primary care physician,” he said. “We want to close the loop and get them an opportunity to follow up with a primary care physician.”

Read the full story at Lansing State Journal