GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health’s latest business venture seeks to create a new way to deliver care by focusing on keeping people healthy, rather treating them when they’re sick.
If successful with the downtown Grand Rapids location, Spectrum Health will open additional Strive offices in the region, perhaps as soon as within a year. That success will hinge on metrics that include how well clients maintain or improve their health through Strive, which offers a care model that mixes wellness with traditional primary care delivered in a uniquely non-traditional setting.
“We want to build the health care we actually want,” said Roger Jansen, the executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Spectrum Health, who describes Strive as “sort of Starbucks and the Apple store meet clinicians so people get engaged in their health.”
Spectrum Health’s drive behind Strive is to “make living well easier” for clients who pay an annual membership fee of $159. Group rates are available for employers and any medical care provided is subject to separate fees, which are covered by insurance.
Members will gain an understanding of “what’s going on in their body” and get a personalized care plan to follow so they can maintain or better their health, or manage chronic medical conditions. They can join walking or cycling clubs coordinated through Strive, or take health, nutrition and cooking classes offered at the downtown location. Additionally, staffers will work with members to identify the best mobile apps they can use for managing their health.
Strive also offers members a genetic test that will determine what exercise regimen or dietary habits work best for their bodies.
“People want to live well, but sometimes it’s hard to do and it’s not easy to figure out how to do it. So we want to be an epicenter for health and wellness for the community,” Jansen said. “It’s not intended to be a medical clinic. It’s intended to be ‘how do you live a better, healthier lifestyle?’ If you needed medicine and interventional medicine, we have that, too.”
The model behind Strive begins taking Spectrum Health beyond the traditional health system role of providing care for the sick and injured.
In an era when obesity and incidence rates of chronic illness are higher than ever and serve to drive up health care spending, Spectrum Health is using Strive to put greater emphasis on wellness and prevention as a way to reduce costs.
“We’ve been about care but we need to be about health as well,” Jansen said. “We want to be a part of your life 24/7, not just when you’re sick.”
The need for a greater focus on health prevention and wellness is clearly illustrated in data from the annual America’s Health Rankings report published by the UnitedHealth Foundation. Nationwide, the rate of obesity — which contributes to a number of health problems — grew to nearly 30 percent in 2016, up from 12 percent in 1990.
The obesity rate in Michigan hit 31.2 percent in 2016, more than double the rate of 1990, and 10.5 percent of the state’s residents had diabetes, versus 4.5 percent in 1996, according to America’s Health Rankings. In Spectrum Health’s home market of Kent County, 29 percent of the population is obese, according to countyhealthrankings.org, a database maintained by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Given the health problems she sees, Dr. Erica Armstrong welcomed the opportunity to work at Strive. A family physician with Spectrum Health Medical Group, Armstrong now can spend more individual time with her patients without the pressure or rush of getting to the next person in the waiting room.
The new model allows her to focus on “functional medicine” that looks at a person’s whole health and how to keep them healthy.
In a traditional primary care model, Armstrong felt she often treated what ailed patients at the moment and didn’t get to the root cause of their problems. Many times, the medical problems were connected to lifestyle issues that affected patients’ health — their eating habits or lack of physical activity, for example.
“It’s hard to change a behavior in 15 minutes” through a traditional office visit, said Armstrong, the lead physician at Strive.
“I’ve believed for a while we needed a change in the way we deliver primary care,” she said. “I’m actually excited about going to work. We’re doing an innovative thing.”
One difference is Strive’s home-like setting where the doctor greets patients when they enter the office. That setting extends into the exam room, providing a relaxed setting that has a decidedly non-clinical feel and is more conducive to a conversation between the doctor and patient to figure out what’s wrong and how best to address it.
“This kind of setting, it makes it feel like you’re talking to a friend,” Armstrong said.
Strive opened earlier this month in the Waters Center on Ottawa Avenue. Jansen notes that it’s the first primary care office in the growing downtown area.
Early business has been strong. Spectrum Health expected to sign up about 100 members in the first week, and got nearly 400, Jansen said. Spectrum Health projects to achieve first year membership in the range of 2,500 to 3,000.