HOUGHTON - Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital personnel described a changing health landscape to Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce members at Thursday's Eggs & Issues forum.
Under the old model, the focus was on caring for the already sick, and consumers had fewer choices, said Dave Olsson, director of strategic marketing and growth at Aspirus Keweenaw. Now, the main goal is preventing and managing disease and health, and more systems are competing for a better-informed, more active population.
"They don't want to settle for one way to do a health care treatment," Olsson said.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
From left, Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital medical director Jerry Luoma, CEO Chuck Nelson and director of strategic marketing and growth Dave Olsson discuss changes in Upper Peninsula health care during a Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues forum Thursday.
The region also saw another change to health care in the area in March, when Marquette General Health System announced it would join Duke LifePoint Healthcare, becoming the first Michigan organization linked to the North Carolina-based network. Olsson said the economics of health care are making it essential to find partners that can help share expertise in areas such as finance and resource sharing and physician recruitment.
"The more we can collaborate ... the better our offerings to you, the community," Olsson said.
Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, something will have to be done with costs, said Aspirus Keweenaw CEO Chuck Nelson.
"It's increasing at a rate nobody thinks can be sustained or maintained," he said.
Nelson believes things are headed toward a system where prices will be capped.
"The challenge for us is how to make it work under that cap," he said.
Olsson also talked about the number of Upper Peninsula residents traveling out of the area for health care. Among the reasons are services and more advanced equipment that aren't available locally, as well as a perception that local health care isn't as good, Olsson said.
The changeover to Aspirus hasn't had any impact on the number of patients going out for treatment, Olsson said: The figure has held steady at around 90 percent, about the same as nationally.
Olsson said Aspirus Keweenaw has seen a 37 percent increase in revenue since its 2008 affiliation with Aspirus.
Unlike when Aspirus Keweenaw medical director Jerry Luoma started out, competition for physicians takes place on a national basis. He said the advanced state of the hospital is always a surprise for prospective doctors.
"They're absolutely flabbergasted," he said. "They say, 'You have this?' 'You have this?' You're capable of these things?'"
Asked about what could be done to improve acute psychiatric care, Luoma said the there isn't a profitable enough market for private practice, while in-patient psychiatry is even more cost-prohibitive.
"It's a huge problem, and there is a work group going on trying to address this with the state and counties and law enforcement agencies," Luoma said.
Luoma said about 80 percent of Aspirus' records are digitized; areas still being worked on include patient medicine lists and diagnosis lists.
Aspirus has 1,100 employees in the Upper Peninsula, who volunteered 13,000 hours last year.
"We take great pride and pleasure in being out in the community," Olsson said.