Even as the Truman Medical Centers system in Kansas City, Mo., received recognition for achieving the highest levels of information technology adoption, President and CEO John Bluford was also exploring a low-tech approach to improving his community's health: opening a grocery store.
“It's an example of us treating patients outside of the hospital bed,” says Bluford, who has led Truman since 1999. “Successful organizations in the future will need to be both high-tech and high-touch, and they will need a fundamental understanding of the neighborhood and community they serve.”
Fundraising is just getting started for the $11.5 million project that will be carried out by the Hospital Hill Economic Development Corp., a not-for-profit entity led by Truman to support healthy lifestyles in the neighborhood around its TMC Hospital Hill facility—an area known as Beacon Hill. The neighborhood has been classified as a “food desert,” with just one “high-dollar specialty” retailer serving as the only grocery store within a 1.5-mile radius. Bluford, 64, serves on the board of the economic development group, and he says the store will be one way the system can target healthcare conditions “with a strong nutrition component,” such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and sickle cell anemia.
Bluford says healthcare organizations “need to get out in front” in fighting these chronic conditions, adding that “the grocery store is about promoting health and preventing disease.”