Quarter Points in the January issue reported some of the costs associated with Spectrum Health’s new children’s hospital as well as its approval from the state for a heart transplant program, its intended merge of physician groups Michigan Medical PC and West Michigan Heart and new partnerships with regional hospitals including Traverse City.
In February, Trinity Health announced that Saint Mary’s Health Care, Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon and two other regional hospitals are joining together as a regional system. The trend of hospital consolidation is apparent in every corner of the state. Grand Rapids Business Journal also anticipates an additional announcement this year from Metro Health and its health care associate University of Michigan Health System.
These developments will be among the greatest influences on health care costs in this region, it will impact the business community in reflected health benefits costs. So, too, will continued drops in Medicare and Medicaid funding. Those losses will be pushed by health care providers into the equation of what (how much more) business owners will pay for services.
Aside from the mile-long shadow cast on costs, there are also significant area developments in the medical and life sciences industries that the business community may find significant for the continued development of this leg of the local economy.
A study by Grand Valley State University published as the year began shows significant increases in patent activity specific to medical care. With an acknowledgement that patent activity is not the only measure, given the backlog in the patent approval process and the public nature of it, it is assumed the research and development activity is far greater.
While the impact of the Van Andel Institute on this economy has innumerable tentacles and domino effect, its leadership in the arena of patent activity is more specifically measured — and it is the new leader, with more than 25 patents, pre-patents and patent applications (with an additional 11 inventions awaiting licensing).
While some readers may not see the link between these institutions and the bioeconomy developments (particularly the Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute in Holland), it is important to note one of the recent breakthroughs of VAI investigators.
Dr. Eric Xu, who was recruited just a few years ago to the VAI, and his team in the Laboratory of Structural Sciences somewhat coincidently made discoveries that may have major implications for addressing global food shortages. His team was able to determine precisely how a plant hormone, abscisic acid, works at the molecular level as plants respond to environmental stresses. It was named as one of the Breakthroughs of the Year for 2009 by Science magazine.
This is indeed a year when business owners will have a front row seat to the balancing act of economic ripples in health care related industries.