After completing most of a $66.4 million renovation and expansion in 2016, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital looks to 2017 as a year to finish the project and to reach out further into new markets in Michigan. Mary Free Bed has five contracts with hospitals in Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Lansing and Pontiac to provide inpatient rehabilitative care. The Grand Rapids-based rehab hospital is “just thriving right now as an institution in every way you can measure” and presently is holding discussions with a half-dozen acute-care hospitals to join its care network, CEO Kent Riddle told MiBiz.
What’s ahead for Mary Free Bed in 2017?
A lot of things. We’re still expanding outward across the state with our network partners, so both adding network partnerships and also developing joint ventures with different systems around the state in order to lead rehabilitation care for them. That continues and we have a team that’s always on the road doing that. Right now, we have six that are in discussion for potential joint ventures in just inpatient units.
What emerged for you this year that will continue into 2017?
We’re continuing the same strategic plan that we’ve had for the last five years. We continue to tweak it every year, but it is basically the same thrust: build up the main campus here as the hub of a rehabilitation system that is in multiple states. We’ve had two hospitals in northern Indiana come to us and ask if we’d be interested in leading rehabilitation care there. So we’re going to continue to move forward with that kind of thing.
What’s playing into your favor for next year?
Quite a bit. Our brand is really getting attention all over the upper Midwest right now, and even nationally. The tailwind is really the momentum that we have and the reputation of Mary Free Bed.
What’s the biggest headwind you’re facing?
That acute systems are forming around the state and the emphasis is on western medicine: surgery, anesthesia, pharmaceuticals. The headwind is showing them the evidence that a function-based approach like rehabilitation is really the best way to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. It’s the educational heavy lifting that we’re doing around the state.
What do you see happening to the Affordable Care Act?
My sources tell me that never in their lifetime would they have guessed that it would go away. But now they are all saying — and I’m talking about our Washington lawyers and lobbyists — that it is definitely going to go away. I think it’s going to get amended, and probably pretty soon and pretty dramatically.
What would you like to see happen to the law or changed?
I’ve actually seen a picture of the law, and it’s about six feet tall. What I would like to see, and the organization would support, is that more people are insured than were before and that people are not cut out of coverage because of pre-existing conditions. The problem with the current act is that it’s become unaffordable. It’s not really an ‘affordable’ care act. It’s an unaffordable care act. If it can be made to become affordable and still carry out its original goals, then that will be a win for everybody.
What’s your advice for how to improve health care in America?
There is an overutilization of interventional services in America. Pharmacy, anesthesia, too many surgeries, and good care management and care navigation needs to be put in place so that people can more efficiently and more effectively, outcome-wise, navigate through the health care system. That can dramatically change the equation of how much health care is costing Americans right now. Health care is a mess in the country. It’s too expensive and outcomes are not very good compared to our peers overseas. It can be fixed with really good care navigation.