Since merging into the University of Michigan Health System nearly a year ago, Metro Health has steadily bulked up its clinical services, growing the number of physicians that it employs from 150 to about 270. The opening of a gastroenterology subspecialty clinic that includes five faculty physicians from Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor who are in Wyoming once a week, the addition of five ICU intensivists, and the formation of a pulmonary division are a few examples of the clinical upgrades Metro Health made in 2017 under the affiliation. Metro Health also launched bariatric surgery at midyear in partnership with physicians at Grand Health Partners in Grand Rapids, and most recently expanded its stroke program with the addition of three specialty physicians. Much more will come in 2018 and in the years ahead, said Dr. Peter Hahn, Metro Health’s chief medical officer.
How is Metro Health different today?
The affiliation’s really been a game-changer in West Michigan. This affiliation has allowed Metro to really grow (and) to become what it really can be in terms of its full potential. We’re making significant strides toward that. I don’t think it’s really changed the essential nature of Metro, but has added to it and sort of allowed it to really fulfill its potential. We’ve had a remarkable first year in this affiliation. We have focused on two sides of it. One side is really being a world-class community hospital with comprehensive services for our community, and then the other side of it is really building centers of excellence that are the referral centers for West Michigan.
As you look to 2018, do you see the clinical buildout and the pace of change accelerating?
We’ll keep on pace. It’s going to be a steady pace, a very planned-out, strategic pace. I don’t see it slowing down, but it will stay on pace. We want to be fiscally responsible, but we want to meet the needs of the community and (provide) choice, so it will continue. The programs that we built are really taking off. We feel we’ve added to the community and expertise in these specialty areas. Primary care is growing and outpacing our goals and our expectations in the number of covered lives and number of providers.
Are you able to retain higher acuity patients now, rather than transfer them elsewhere?
Absolutely. We’re seeing our acuity go up, and we really believe the patients need to be treated locally, if possible. So 95 percent of patients can be treated at Metro. The other 5 percent we will send to Ann Arbor for the highly specialized quaternary care, and will continue to build that capability to take care of that 95 percent and offer them the same level of care that they would expect from the University of Michigan.
Where are you in the clinical buildup after the first year and how far are you into your plan?
We have a very focused and detailed five-year plan. We’re really at the beginning stages in many ways. Each year, we focus on a number of different service lines and specialties. That’s really based on community need and that’s based on really trying to provide choice to patients in West Michigan. There are a number of new initiatives coming up, and we go by fiscal years, July to June. There are a number of surgical specialty programs that we are planning to build and expand. We’ve always had a strong cardiology program, but there are parts of cardiology where we will increase our footprint to make sure we can have patients receive their care locally as much as possible.
When could Metro Health pursue state approval for an open-heart program?
Grand Rapids is the biggest metropolitan area in the country with only one open-heart program. I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re going to pursue open heart. We know that’s the right thing to do. We need to get further down the road on this journey. We have priorities. That’s definitely a priority, but something we have to build toward.
Is Metro looking to add or acquire physician practices?
Our preferred model is to work with strong, high-quality, independent groups. In the primary care realm, though, we’re very interested in employing and potentially acquiring practices. On the flip side, we definitely want to work with independent primary care practices that want to work that way and (for whom) that model works best. We want to help them with the I.T. infrastructure. I want to make sure we’re coordinated in terms of care management with them. I think it’s about just what those practices want.
What in the first year of the affiliation surprised you?
I’ve really been amazed at just the strength of the block M in terms of a brand, if you will. The number of physicians who have reached out to me, wanting to work with us, potentially wanting to be employed, that’s been really surprising, quite honestly.
Has that made you more selective in choosing potential partners?
Post this affiliation, we have been very selective and the affiliation has allowed us to be selective.