Published in Health Care

Crystal Ball 2019 Outlook Q&A: Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health

BY Sunday, December 23, 2018 03:57pm

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.

What do you see as the path ahead for Spectrum Health in 2019?

Tina Freese Decker COURTESY PHOTO

We are really trying to think differently and trying to reimagine what health and health care will look like in 2019 and beyond. I believe it needs to be focused more on the person and personalized health, and so what we’re talking about is how do we be more simple, affordable and personal. How do we make the complex simple, not only for the people that we serve but also for team members? How do we become more affordable? That’s reducing cost and really thinking through how we do this and do it in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. And then there’s whole-person care from a personal perspective. Not just precision medicine, which is a component of it, but the personal approach to the entire experience and really making sure that we’re thinking about you and your health and to do that in the most effective and personal way for you.

What’s something new that may emerge for Spectrum Health next year?

We’re continuing to refine the services that we offer and to really make sure that we create services that are geared toward the consumer. I know we’ll continue to expand our virtual services to provide care where it’s more convenient and cost effective. That’s one area that I think you’ll see trend for us, as well as for other health systems.

What’s going on in the national health care scene that you’ll have to deal with next year?

We’ll continue to see new entrants enter health care. They are already coming at a staggering pace, and some are traditional health care consolidation but some are completely new disruptions. That’s where we’re having conversations about how do we reimagine (care) because we know these disruptions are coming. How do we be even better than those that may be entering the market? Then there are new advances in science and technology. It’s amazing to see science and what’s happened over the last few years, as well as the technology and the ability to use data to drive better health outcomes. 

What’s the biggest potential disruptor out there?

Consumers expect the same from health care as they do from every other industry, which is the personal approach, and they’re looking at cost and they’re looking at convenience. Some of the non-health care companies understand that piece and the use of data and technology to provide a seamless experience, even if it’s just one component. That’s a big disruptor. So for us we’re thinking about how do we do that but at a broader scale when we continue to offer the breadth and depth of all the services and sites that we have. That’s where we need to think about how do we think more agile and nimbly and more effectively, and how do we try some things with that innovation to make a difference here.

What advice do you have for the incoming governor?

For Spectrum Health, we believe everyone should have access to health care, and so Medicaid expansion is still important, as is Healthy Michigan. I believe we need to have more focus on behavioral health. It’s helping us, in a collaborative process, address and provide exceptional behavioral health services to each of our communities. This is a concern — and I’m including substance abuse in behavioral health — across the entire state. So we need to work together to find the solutions that address both the access and funding. That would be a big area of success if we did it well.

What in the health care industry might surprise people in 2019?

We’re going to see more and more innovation and disruption, and it’s going to make it so it’s easier from a consumer and personal perspective, but it’s going to challenge us to think differently from a business and traditional perspective. Depending on your point of view, that could be a challenge or a surprise. I don’t think the status quo will exist and the pace of change is just going to get more exponential, and we’re going to need more and better communications to manage the change that’s coming.

After closing the deal in 2018 for Lakeland Health and partnering with Mary Free Bed, does Spectrum Health remain open to further deals?

We’re always open to further possibilities and partnerships or collaborations. It’s been a wonderful integration with Lakeland so far. What we want to do is really prove that we can deliver value back to the community in terms of reduced costs and greater quality and value. We think that’s a great model to implement and then to highlight what can be accomplished. As you’ve seen in other announcements, we’re really trying to partner because I believe we cannot do everything alone. We really need to work together and collaborate and find solutions where we share in some of our expertise and help each other create the new competencies that are needed for the future.

Interview conducted and condensed by Mark Sanchez. 

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