Health care innovation on tap at Crain’s Power Breakfast

West Michigan is increasingly contributing to innovation in the health care sector, whether in terms of care delivery models, the devices performing high-tech surgeries, or the ways in which modern medicine cares for its patients. 

That was a key takeaway this morning from a panel of four executives who convened at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park as part of Crain’s Grand Rapids Business Power Breakfast on health care innovation. 

The panel, moderated by veteran Crain’s health care reporter Mark Sanchez, included: 

  • Dr. Erica Armstrong, founder and CEO of Root Functional Medicine; 
  • John Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam Medical; 
  • Dr. Scott Lancaster, chief investment officer and managing director of The 4100 Group; and
  • Mary Tibbe, manager of the virtual ICU, virtual nursing, cardiac monitoring center, and tele-sitting programs at Corewell Health. 

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The executives detailed an industry in flux, as escalating costs continue to challenge traditional business models and as employers shoulder increasingly more of the burden for health care in America. 

They also cited the role the pandemic played in forcing health care to embrace technology, at the same time many patients began to reevaluate how they interact with providers. 

That confluence of factors certainly affects Tibbe, who recounted how the need to see patients and keep doctors and nurses safe during the pandemic accelerated the adoption and acceptance of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. 

Crain's power breakfast
Attendees of the Feb. 8 Crain’s Grand Rapids Power Breakfast on health care innovation. Credit: M Buck Studio

Using AI technology such as virtual nurses and virtual admissions can help compensate for nurse experience, especially valuable as younger nurses enter the workforce. However, she knows there’s still a long way to go. 

She also sees a place for AI to help complement the experience of older nurses, who might be able to extend their career thanks to help from virtual care. 

“I have nurses that range from 15 years (of experience) to 35 days,” she said. “When I’m able to take that group and spread them throughout the system, you’re going to improve outcomes. The more experienced nurses feel like they can stick around longer. It’s really taking the workforce we have and being more efficient.”

Armstrong also is on the frontlines of the digital shift. Her practice at Root Functional Medicine shifted entirely to a telehealth model in the years after the pandemic as more patients clamored for the convenience it offers. As well, the pandemic also had patients taking a closer look at their health as opposed to just treating symptoms, she said. 

“People are really starting to value their health and they’re voting with their dollar,” Armstrong said, noting more employers are paying for group membership for their employees to access services at Root Functional Medicine, which doesn’t accept insurance and instead offers monthly or yearly membership to create individualized health care plans. 

“The reasons they’re doing this are they want to offer more for their employees, but also because we can save them a lot of money,” she said.

The 4100 Group is invested in numerous companies, including Root Functional Medicine, that are focused on driving innovation and disrupting the health care industry. Lancaster pointed to the rise in membership medicine, with fees for bundled services, often separating entirely from insurance companies. 

“I think the business models that we’ve created in membership medicine greatly simplify how we operate the business in and of itself and how physicians actually practice,” he said. 

Kennedy also sees a need to disrupt the current health care model, noting the need to put the power over patient care back into patients’ hands. 

“I think the tendency of our health care system is to do what is allowed and what is required by the health care plan, as opposed to what’s best for the patient,” he said. “ I think we have to change, and we have to do it by helping make sure the employee/patient is responsible for their health care.”

More from Crain’s Grand Rapids Business:

Indoor pickleball, golf simulator venue planned for Grand Rapids’ west side

Recent deals raise Huizenga Group’s automation profile — again

Whitmer proposes to double tourism funding but falls short of requested $50M

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