Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital would expand its presence in northern Michigan under a new joint operating agreement with Munson Healthcare in Traverse City.

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Allegan General Hospital and its parent health system would become part of the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. with the proposed acquisition by Ascension.

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Joan Budden looks at 2019 as a year to keep pushing for greater affordability and accessibility in health care. The president and CEO of Grand Rapids-based health plan Priority Health welcomes the greater attention and scrutiny that arose in 2018 for prescription drug costs that are becoming a major cost burden for health insurers and employers. She expects the trend to greater price transparency and consumerism to further take hold for the industry in 2019.

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Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital goes into 2019 with a new partner after signing a collaboration agreement in November with Spectrum Health to work together on research and coordinating patient care. The Grand Rapids rehabilitation hospital also formalized a research partnership with the University of Michigan Health System, and toward year’s end acquired the in-home skilled nursing services unit from Sunset Retirement Communities and Services. Looking ahead to 2019, President and CEO Kent Riddle sees a continuation of the high growth that Mary Free Bed has experienced in recent years since forming a statewide care network.

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Health care goes into 2019 facing many of the same issues and trends that have been driving industry change in recent years: the movement to value-based contracting, more use of telemedicine, growing concerns about cybersecurity, and greater price and cost transparency for consumers.

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Dr. Rakesh Pai joined Metro Health – University of Michigan Health System in October as medical group president and chief population health officer. He came to the health system with experience in two major drivers in health care today: value-based contracts between insurers and care providers and population health. Dr. Pai, a cardiologist, previously served as associate chief medical officer for two years at Cambia Health Solutions in Portland, Ore., where he ran Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon. Dr. Pai looks at 2019 as a year for Metro Health to further build on the two-year-old affiliation with U-M Health System.

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The Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine achieved significant milestones in 2018. Among them: Receiving full accreditations from The Higher Learning Commission and the Liaison Committee of Medical Education, plus graduating its inaugural class of 48 medical students in May, all of whom were placed in residencies across the country. Since opening in 2014, the medical school — commonly known as WMed — has ramped up to peak capacity of 84 students per incoming class. After “quite a great year” in 2018, founding Dean Hal Jenson said WMed is now focused on improving and building on the foundation that’s been established.

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The past year confirmed to Toni Sperlbaum that workplace wellness is beginning to move in a new direction. Rather than focus on diet, exercise, and financial incentives for increasing participation and progress toward health goals, some employer wellness programs locally now take a broader approach. They encompass mental health, financial well-being and intrinsic motivation to encourage employees to maintain or improve their health, said Sperlbaum, the vice president of wellness at Health Plan Advocate in Grand Rapids. She expects that trend to pick up, albeit slowly, in West Michigan during the next year.

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Tina Freese Decker became president and CEO at Spectrum Health on Sept. 1 following the retirement of Rick Breon. She leads West Michigan’s largest health system as the industry adapts to a combination of forces driving change, including greater consumerism and personalizing care to individual patients. As well, the industry has shifted to focus on keeping people healthy rather than treating them when they’re ill or injured, an economic model that rewards quality and pays care providers for outcomes rather than volume. Spectrum Health in 2018 moved into the Southwestern Michigan market with the merger of Lakeland Health in St. Joseph, and this fall formed a new partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

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GRAND RAPIDS — A $40 million investment by a Japanese pharmaceutical company provides Tetra Discovery Partners Inc. a strategic partner and capital to test and commercialize a new drug compound that could treat Alzheimer’s disease and a form of autism.

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