Corewell Health pursues ‘bold vision’ as post-merger integration continues in 2023

Tina Freese Decker presided over the blockbuster 2022 merger between Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Heath and Beaumont Health in Southfield, which created Corewell Health, the largest health system in the state of Michigan with 22 hospitals and approximately 64,000 employees. In 2023, the focus is on further integrating the two health systems while dealing with the difficult financial environment and staffing shortages facing healthcare providers today, said Friz Dekker, who was announced this month by the trade publication Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare of 2022.

After the two health systems merge in 2022, what remains to be done in 2023 to realize the full benefits of the merger?

We are still in the early stages, with so many positives ahead of us. We have a bold vision—a future where health is simple, accessible, fair, and exceptional for all—and achieving that vision will require our best efforts. We’re really excited about what we’re working on in 2023.

What is Corewell Health’s biggest opportunity in the coming year?

The biggest opportunity we have in the coming year is to increase access to better health. We recognize that people want to be healthy and get the care and coverage they need. We continue to open new services and invest in prevention to best serve people where they live.

What is your biggest obstacle?

Our biggest challenge today is dealing with burnout in our teams. Caregivers and all healthcare workers are amazingly strong and have been through this pandemic for three years without much relief. Our focus is on the well-being of our team members and we prioritize their hope, joy and satisfaction.

What makes you optimistic about the new year?

Every day I hear stories about how we have saved someone’s life or helped them on their way to health. This is what healthcare is all about, and it drives my hope and optimism that we can help our communities and team members achieve better health and well-being.

Take a step back, what’s bothering you?

I am concerned about the increase in influences that have a negative impact on people’s health – physical, mental, emotional. These influences can be stress, loneliness, financial pressure and many others. Every part of trauma, big or small, is ingrained in our bodies and affects our well-being. We must recognize that health is more than the absence of disease, it is the presence of health. And we’re very focused on helping people with their overall health — physical, emotional and overall well-being.

Like many health systems, Corewell’s financial performance has declined due to high costs, particularly for labor. Do you expect these financial pressures to intensify in 2023 or ease?

I expect that in 2023 we will experience the same financial pressures and challenges as this year. We are planning for all scenarios so that we are in a good position to fulfill our mission and are well prepared for 2023.

What more can Corewell do to address staff shortages?

In the longer term, we are partnering with schools and universities to create a wider range of key roles and professions. In the short term, we are identifying and implementing innovative ways of working, streamlining systems and advancing our digital capabilities. Focusing on these achievements allows us to create a more flexible, inclusive and healthy culture where people find joy in work.

As you look ahead to 2023, what is your prediction for healthcare in general that might surprise us?

With the financial challenges facing our field, I expect the focus on paying for value versus fee-for-service to come under pressure in 2023. We remain focused on the transition to value, and our efforts have been very successful in helping our members community and patients have access to the right care at the right place, at the right time, and at the right price. For example, our Advanced Primary Care Clinics are a model for the future, improving health outcomes while reducing costs and increasing patient satisfaction.

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