Tina Freese Decker led the blockbuster 2022 merger between Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Heath and Beaumont Health in Southfield that created Corewell Health, the largest in-state health system in Michigan with 22 hospitals and about 64,000 employees. In 2023, the focus is on further integrating the two health systems while navigating a tough financial environment and the staffing shortage that care providers face today, said Freese Decker, who this month was named by trade publication Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare of 2022.
After bringing the two health systems together in 2022, what remains to be done in 2023 to realize the full benefits of the merger?
We are still in the early stages, with so much upside still ahead. We have a bold vision — a future where health is simple, affordable, equitable and exceptional, for everyone — and achieving this vision will require our best efforts. We are really excited for what we are working on in 2023.
What’s Corewell Health’s biggest opportunity next year?
The biggest opportunity we have next year is to increase access to better health. We recognize that people want to be healthy and get the care and coverage that they need. We are continuing to open new services and invest in prevention to best serve people where they live.
What’s your biggest obstacle?
Our biggest challenge today is addressing the burnout in our teams. Caregivers and all health care workers are amazingly strong, and they have been living this pandemic for three years without much relief. Our focus is on the well-being of our team members and prioritizing their hope, joy and fulfillment.
What makes you optimistic for the new year?
Every day, I hear stories of how we saved someone’s life or helped them along their health journey. This is what health care is all about, and it drives my hope and optimism that we can help our communities and team members achieve better health and wellness.
Taking a step back, what worries you?
I am concerned about the increase in influences that negatively impact people’s health — physical, mental, emotional. These influences could be stress, loneliness, financial pressures and many others. Every bit of trauma, small or big, is ingrained into our bodies and impacts our well-being. We need to recognize that health is more than the absence of illness, it is the presence of wellness. And we are very focused on helping people with their whole health — physical, emotional and overall well-being.
Like many health systems, Corewell’s financial performance has declined because of high costs, particularly for labor. Do you expect those financial pressures to intensify in 2023 or ease?
I expect in 2023 we will experience the same financial pressures and challenges we have this year. We plan for all scenarios so that we are well-positioned to meet our mission and have set ourselves up well for 2023.
What more can Corewell do to address the staffing shortage?
In the long-term, we are partnering with schools and universities to create a greater pipeline for key roles and professions. In the short-term, we are identifying and implementing innovative ways to work, streamlining systems and advancing our digital capabilities. A focus on these advancements allows us to create a more flexible, inclusive and healthy culture where people find joy at work.
As you look ahead to 2023, what’s one prediction you have for health care in general that could surprise us?
With the financial challenges facing our field, I expect the focus on payment for value versus fee for service will be pressure tested in 2023. We remain focused on transitioning to value, and our efforts have proven to be very successful in helping our community members and patients access the right care in the right place, at the right time and at the right cost. For example, our Advanced Primary Care Clinics are a model for the future, improving health outcomes while decreasing costs and increasing patient satisfaction.