CHICAGO — Health care is a field that’s ripe for disruption, and as such, hospitals are susceptible to falling into the potential “legacy traps” that cut down former giants like Blockbuster, Borders and Circuit City. One Michigan health system, however, has an idea of how to avoid that trap, and get customers coming to the hospital, even when they’re not sick.

Roger Jansen, the chief strategy officer of Spectrum Health, detailed those visions during a keynote speech Monday at this year's Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development Connections annual meeting. It’s familiar factors that are forcing the 12-hospital, Grand Rapids-based network to try and upend its business model. Those include the aging population, health care’s shift toward a payment system rewarding value rather than number of visits and procedures, and the swelling cost burden of care for individuals and employers.

“People have said, ‘Enough is enough, we’re not going to take it any longer,’ ” Jansen said, with respect to the last item on that list. “Essentially, our business model is under attack and if we don’t take that seriously and we don’t recognize that, then I think we’re missing a lot of warning signs that are out there.”

For Spectrum, the answer to this conundrum lies in creating an “ecosystem of health,” where consumers come to the organization’s facilities seeking products and services, rather than just when they’re sick and broken. Jansen spelled out the five essential elements that his health system sees as the backbone of this ecosystem:

  1. Meeting the consumer wherever they are in their health journey: “So, whether you need that open heart surgery or you need that bone marrow transplant or you’re trying to understand your health from a different perspective or become healthier and more fit, we want to be there for you on that continuum. We are not there now. Instead, we are passive agents waiting for you to have some misery or tragedy in your life before we make any dollars off of you, with the exception of our health plan.”
  2. Leverage intellectual property differently than we do today: “We have incredible clinicians with incredible knowledge. We have great physical therapists, dieticians. We don’t tap their knowledge for how to keep people well and healthy, at all. We have not built a brand for health and wellness; we have built a brand for illness. You go there when you’re sick. That’s an incredibly missed opportunity from what we look at as we’re trying to grow our company going forward.”
  3. Utilize partnerships: “We cannot do this alone. We’re talking about consumerism, but what the heck does a health system know about consumers? Not very much. We know about patients (and I’m not sure how much we know about patients). So, when we take a look at this, we need to understand that partnerships are going to be absolutely crucial to us as we build this health ecosystem.”
  4. Extend care beyond the visit: “Right now, our care is you come in the office, we see you, and then you leave and that’s it. We may have a follow-up email. We may give you a survey: Did you like your service or not? But really we stop there; we do not extend the care beyond the visit. I don’t know of any health systems that do.”
  5. Be interwoven into your daily life: “That’s aspirational. We don’t think we’re going to be, necessarily, but we do see weekly or monthly utilization of Spectrum Health for some component of it is an absolute viable option for us to grow, going forward.”

One motivation for this way of thinking, Jansen said, is an estimate out of noted consulting firm Oliver Wyman, which predicted a $6 trillion upswing in the health care market. That could come in forms such as wearable devices, genomics, health food, etc. How can hospitals tap into that “astronomical growth”? Another study estimated that Americans spend 30 percent of their discretionary income on health-related products and services. “How often do we talk about going after the discretionary dollar?”

Jansen gave several examples of ways that Spectrum is already aiming to answer that question. One is through a few dozen products, sold at the Meier grocery chain, which are co-branded with the Spectrum name, such as vitamins and over-the-counter medicines. This effort has helped the system to engage physicians around which products to utilize, as well as pulling its brand name out of health care facilities and into everyday consumer life.

Spectrum is also launching its first “Health Core” facility in February 2017. Utilizing a membership model, these new spaces will be designed to look nothing like hospitals, and offer visitors access to care services, exercise and yoga, a coffee shop, and retail items. They’re now working with a tech company to design a program that allows Health Core visitors to conduct their own physicals. “Culinary medicine” is another essential piece of the equation, to the point where Spectrum is even discussing the idea of opening healthy fast food restaurants to serve its customers.

Jansen believes the future is without boundaries for hospitals, and health care leaders need to be thinking about how to evolve now, regardless of their success, or risk falling into the next legacy trap.

“We have to begin to ask the questions that we haven’t asked before about what it means to be a health ecosystem, not just a patient-care focused system as we move forward,” he said.