Published in Health Care
Spectrum Health opened its Strive office in the Waters Building in downtown Grand Rapids to focus on providing care when patients are healthy, rather than when they get sick. Spectrum Health opened its Strive office in the Waters Building in downtown Grand Rapids to focus on providing care when patients are healthy, rather than when they get sick. COURTESY PHOTO

Spectrum Health targets employers in growing Strive membership program

BY Saturday, August 04, 2018 03:26pm

GRAND RAPIDS — After building a solid membership base in the first year, Spectrum Health wants to grow its downtown primary care practice by appealing directly to employers.

Spectrum Health’s Strive, which uses a membership model and blends primary care with wellness services to focus on maintaining and improving a person’s health, enrolled about 1,100 members since opening last summer in the Waters Building on Ottawa Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.

The primary care practice now “has a lot of interest” from employers in the area for corporate memberships for employees, said Holly Sullivan, director of strategic partnerships at Spectrum Health. The health system has made selling memberships to employers a strategic focus in Strive’s second year.

“We have a lot of untapped market with employers,” Sullivan said. “With employers, you have more growth opportunities.”

Strive members pay a $159 annual membership fee for access to primary care providers and an array of wellness services such as lifestyle, health and weight management and disease prevention. The members also have access to classes on nutrition and cooking as well as exercise groups. Any medical care provided to patients is subject to separate fees, which are covered by insurance. Strive also offers discounted group memberships for employers, based on their number of employees.

Using genomic testing to determine a person’s future health risks “rather than a one-size-fits-all guideline,” Strive clinicians craft a personalized plan for members to follow to maintain or improve their health, or to better manage a costly chronic medical condition, said Clinical Director Christine Khamis.

Spectrum Health bills Strive as a new, more cost-effective model for primary care where the emphasis goes to health and prevention, instead of so-called “sick care.”

“If we’re waiting for a disease process to start, and then make the diagnosis and start managing, that’s way more costly for employers and individuals to take care of,” Khamis said. “We’re truly trying to upstream what we’re taking care of, look at the root cause of being healthy or being unhealthy, and optimize that with our patients.”

A NEW MODEL

Spectrum Health’s push to sell Strive directly to employers has potential, said Matt Hylant, team leader for employee benefits at the Grand Rapids office of Hylant Group Inc.

Employers today are seeking to go beyond traditional wellness programs to something more intensive to contain rising medical claims and health insurance premiums, Hylant said.

A number of employers have formed their own on-site employee medical clinics to improve access to primary care and the management of chronic diseases, the latter of which drives up health premiums and workplace absenteeism.

Nationwide, the National Business Group on Health’s 2017 annual survey of nearly 150 large employers found 54 percent of respondents planned to provide on-site or nearby health centers this year for employees. Survey results indicated the number could grow by two-thirds by 2020.

“If you can keep people in primary care, managing disease in a very comfortable and easy-to-use manner, you’re going to have a healthier workforce, lower health care claims, and likely a more productive workforce,” Hylant said. “There are a lot of employers in town looking at that model.”

The care model Strive offers plays into that emerging market interest by alleviating the upfront activation costs for employers to start their own on-site or nearby employee clinics, he said. Plus, it allows employers to avoid the expense of recruiting, hiring and paying staff.

“If Spectrum can come in with the Strive model and say ‘we’ve kind of figured that all out for you, we have the service offering and you pay us’ — I’m assuming on a per-employee, per-month basis, or a per-membership basis it could be very attractive,” Hylant said.

Spectrum Health has a couple of downtown-based employers already enrolled in Strive and a “pretty significant pipeline we’re talking to” who are interested in memberships for employees as part of their health and wellness benefits in 2019, Sullivan said. Some are considering Strive instead of forming an on-site clinic, she added.

SPREADING OUT

In pursuing employer memberships this year, Spectrum Health is open to bringing Strive directly into a corporate setting away from downtown, Sullivan said, noting the health system can adapt the model based on what an employer wants.

“We’d love to continue to expand the model, and it might make sense to do a ‘Strive light’ on their campus,” said Sullivan, adding that Strive is a “research lab” that allows Spectrum Health to explore market demands.

“We’re open to new opportunities,” Sullivan said.

As Strive enters year two, Spectrum Health wants to open additional Strive locations in the future. Decisions on expansion with additional locations could come within a year, according to Khamis.

Sullivan raised the possibility of a Strive office on the east side of Grand Rapids that would focus on family memberships, or locations that offer a specific wellness focus such as a culinary kitchen.

“Certainly, once we get to critical mass here, we’d love to create a network of Strives,” she said. “We have some ideas on that. We definitely see this expanding.”

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