Earlier this month, the merged Beaumont-Spectrum health system got a new name in Corewell Health. And with it, the top executive hopes for a new view of its operations in Southeast Michigan.
A lot has transpired leading up to the new name, including leadership accelerating efforts to integrate the two systems and to patch financial bleeding from the former Beaumont operations.
Sources have for years discussed the exodus of top physicians from Beaumont for competing hospitals in the state under its former leadership, and that outflow has continued since the merger.
Crain's talked with Corewell President and CEO Tina Freese Decker about the new name, addressing the financial and labor issues in Southeast Michigan and what the state should expect from its largest health system moving forward.
The Corewell name was met with some groans, especially after parting ways with the Spectrum brand. How do you feel about the new name and its place in the healthcare space?
We're feeling really good about it. We know it's a big change and it takes time for people to get used to that new name, but we're proud of the team for putting this together. Coming up with a new name is surprisingly challenging, but the process was excellent. We engaged our team members with surveys and that name really comes from our team members. The surveys revealed that 60 percent of our team members suggested we get a new name [the merged system was temporarily named BHSH System]. So, people will get over it, and the name will be a vision of transformed health in the future.
During the first six months of 2022, the Beaumont side of the business reported a $100 million loss. How is that impacting integration efforts and how are you trying to rectify the financials?
Coming together creates a lot of opportunities to build a strong organization statewide. We are well underway with our integration efforts and have accomplished a great deal in only nine months. Our financials are already improving. Frankly, it takes time to move this forward and navigate the headwinds all hospitals are facing moving forward. One area we've made big investments is in our people. We want to make sure we keep people in our system and attract people into our organization. We've made market adjustments to wages and put in new partnerships with education institutions (Grand Valley State University and others). We're also sharing best practices across the system and have recently made investment in surgical robots, our IT and digital areas to allow us to be more efficient.
Quickly after the Beaumont financials came out, Corewell announced 400 job cuts systemwide in nonclinical positions. Can we expect more cuts?
In September, when we made that announcement, it was part of us accelerating our consolidation work. We limited those cuts in professional roles where there were redundancies. We're still continuing to hire people for the patient-facing roles. We're making encouraging progress with the integration. We've done a lot of culture-shaping work, focusing on the delivery of care. And because we have Priority (Corewell's integrated health insurer), we are continuing to work on what we can do for value. Again, we've invested millions of dollars into our IT systems to make the system strong and provide seamless care. It's really coming together to make it a high-quality system. We are now in flight, and we're starting to see the benefits coming forward.
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Beaumont has been losing top physician affiliations for years, and we've been told it continues under Corewell. Is there anything being done to address the issue?
Specifically in Southeast Michigan, it was really necessary to recruit a talented leader. I'm very proud that we recruited Dr. Ben Schwartz. He's been in meetings to address issues and those conversations are going very well. There's been a lot of conversation and action going on, especially since Dr. Schwartz joined us (on July 5). We strive to be the best place to work and be the place physicians want to practice at and want to return to practice at. I think in three to five years, we will look at this as a moment in time where we began making it positive for people to practice in Southeast Michigan.
The Beaumont headquarters in Southfield seems an obvious casualty of the integration. It's a large building and the workforce there still isn't back in the office full time. Are there any plans to get rid of the building?
We plan to always have a significant presence in this location (Southeast Michigan). Just last week, I attended a nursing orientation in Southfield and there are a number of people who are coming in for collaborative education and I got to see the excitement people have for joining our organization. There is a lot going on in the building and it's about collaboration and advancing us forward.
There are clear cultural differences between the west side and the east side of the state. Has that been difficult to navigate during the integration?
We're all Michiganders. I've found that we go into a room, come together to talk about the issues and come to a solution. We usually walk out with that solution. We did a survey early on and asked those questions about decision making and processes and, honestly, expected to see more differences. There weren't any major differences. We all wanted the same thing. The survey said we were more alike than we were different. That's been encouraging, and I'm excited about the future.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Detroit Business.