Health Care

A drug developer rooted in Southwest Michigan and backed by investors across the region may pursue an initial public stock offering that could net up to $86.2 million to support further development and commercialization.

The association health plan two business groups formed last fall for small Michigan-based employers has recorded strong enrollment in its early months. TrascendAHP — created in October by the Lansing-based Small Business Association of Michigan and Warren-based Michigan Business and Professional Association — enrolled about 300 small businesses through January. Those companies account for more than 1,400 contracts between TranscendAHP and their employees for health coverage.

GRAND RAPIDS — West Michigan investment banking firm Charter Capital Partners led a $18.3 million financing round in Malvern, Pa.-based Trice Medical Inc. The Series C capital round will go to expand Trice Medical’s commercialization and accelerate the development of its product portfolio.

At first glance, the 2019 Health Check report published by Grand Valley State University seems to suggest that medical innovation in Michigan and nationally slowed dramatically in recent years. But health care and legal experts say the medical patent numbers in the report don’t quite reflect reality. They cite an array of factors that likely drove steep declines from 2014 to 2017 in the number of medical patents issued and assigned, both nationwide and in Michigan.

KALAMAZOO — More than 60 care providers with a Southwest Michigan medical group plan to switch from Ascension Borgess and instead affiliate with Bronson Healthcare next year. The five-year provider service agreement between Portage Physicians P.C. and Bronson takes effect July 1, 2020. The 30 doctors and 32 physician assistants and nurse practitioners who now practice at six Ascension Borgess ProMed offices in the Kalamazoo area will relocate and staff new Bronson offices.

Mercy Health plans to develop more outpatient medical centers in West Michigan over the next few years. The newest center will come online on East Fulton Street in Ada, where Mercy Health is presently building out space that will house family and internal medicine physicians, neurology, OB-GYN, X-ray, a lab and ancillary services, including physical therapy. Mercy Health expects to offer the first services at the new Ada location in April, said Chief Integration Officer Mary Boyd.

A decision out of Washington, D.C. at the end of last year provides further uncertainty as to how far employers can go with incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in mid-December decided to scrap two rules about wellness incentives. 

GRAND RAPIDS — The organization that provides blood to most of the hospitals in Michigan took on a new name to create a single brand identity with sister centers in neighboring states. Grand Rapids-based Michigan Blood became Versiti Blood Center of Michigan in mid January. The name change comes six years after Michigan Blood affiliated with Milwaukee, Wis.-based Versiti Inc.

KALAMAZOO — Private equity-backed Beacon Specialized Living Services Inc., a provider of specialized residential health care services, has expanded into Minnesota. The deal for Saint Paul, Minn.-based Owakihi Inc. marks the for-profit Beacon’s first foray outside of Michigan, according to a statement.

Lost in my inbox during the year-end shuffle was an item serving as a reminder that despite massive changes occurring in the industry, one steady constant remains in Michigan’s health care sector. In this case, it was the annual report from the American Medical Association that once again identifies Michigan as one of the least competitive states in the country for commercial health insurance.

GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health joined a consortium of large health systems across the U.S. as way to reduce the cost and ensure the availability of generic medications. Through the nonprofit Civica Rx, the Grand Rapids-based health system hopes to cut by 20 percent or more the cost of generic drugs used in surgeries and patient treatments.

Western Michigan University Professor David Karowe, Ph.D. has dire predictions for what will happen if people across the globe fail to take swift action to replace fossil fuels with green energy. While climate change affects systems globally, it will have real effects on the West Michigan region and its economy, according to Karowe’s predictions, which are informed by his years of research on the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide in plants.

Patients in West Michigan are more apt than people in the southeastern part of the state to connect with a doctor virtually to manage two chronic illnesses. That’s one finding in Grand Valley State University’s 2019 Health Check report, which shows a far higher utilization rate in the region for telehealth as an ongoing treatment option for diabetes and coronary artery disease.

A $500,000 grant from the Grand Rapids SmartZone will fund a program to use 3-D printing technology to accelerate the development and production of medical device components.

Researchers led by scientists at Van Andel Research Institute developed a new blood test that can lead to the earlier detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.

GRAND HAVEN — After first launching a device to kill germs in health care settings, UV Partners Inc. has a new product to disinfect and charge cell phones while working or driving. The company’s UV Angel Aura Clean & Charge embeds into a wireless charging base technology that senses germs and automatically disinfects a smartphone, which according to a 2012 University of Arizona study can carry far more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Sales are not a problem for Perrigo Co. plc. The lack of a robust new product pipeline and pricing pressures as more competitors enter the market have been the primary issues ailing the company, along with customer service issues, CEO Murray Kessler told investor this week.

Pine Rest Christian Mental Services was one of five organizations selected to participate in a federally-funded study on treating people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Spectrum Health was among a dozen members to join a consortium of health systems across the nation that plan to produce their own generic medications to address a shortage.

Physicians practicing in three primary care areas no longer have to maintain board certification to earn or renew a medical license in Michigan, or to get paid by health insurers.

The $77 million investment in Ablative Solutions Inc. ranks as the largest known venture capital deal ever in Michigan, possibly helping draw more attention to the state’s life sciences research and development. 

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

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.

Ascension Michigan today named Peter Bergmann as president of Ascension Borgess.

Ablative Solutions Inc. secured $77 million in financing that ranks as the largest known venture capital deal ever in Michigan.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Innovative Cardiovascular Solutions LLC, the developer of a device to improve patient safety during a heart procedure, closed on $8 million in capital raised to support clinical trials and production.

McLaren Health Care broke ground Monday on a new $450 million, 240-bed hospital.

CALEDONIA — Three investors have put more money into Acrisure LLC, the West Michigan-based insurance brokerage that’s been growing rapidly through an aggressive acquisition strategy.

MUSKEGON — By forming academic partnerships for a new medical clinic in Muskegon, Mercy Health aims to extend primary care where it’s needed and to create a talent pipeline of future health care workers.

Ada physician Ronald Kufner was among six doctors indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations they illegally prescribed 13.2 million doses of opioid pain medications and billed Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan a collective $464.3 million over nearly six years.

HOLLAND — Venture capital fund Cultivate(MD) Capital Fund II LP invested in SpinTech Inc., a Detroit-based startup that developed a suite of software for brain scan MRIs.

Backers of a law mandating paid sick leave in Michigan say they’ll launch a new petition drive to put the issue on the 2020 ballot if lawmakers weaken it during the lame-duck legislative session in Lansing.

Against the backdrop of West Michigan’s nascent medical device industry and an expanding array of resources, high-tech health care startups are finding the tools they need to start and grow their businesses in the region.

The lame-duck session of Congress offers the opportunity for advocates to finally convince lawmakers to repeal a federal tax on medical devices.

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