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Spectrum Health cited the inability to achieve scale in closing its membership-based Strive practice in downtown Grand Rapids. Spectrum Health cited the inability to achieve scale in closing its membership-based Strive practice in downtown Grand Rapids. COURTESY PHOTO

Spectrum Health hopes to apply lessons from closed Strive practice

BY Monday, September 02, 2019 01:03pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health aims to incorporate some of the lessons learned from operating the former Strive primary care and wellness office into its medical practices across West Michigan.

Citing an inability to achieve scale over two years, Spectrum Health closed the downtown Grand Rapids office of Strive on Aug. 23.

While the practice as a business did not work out as hoped, Strive generated high satisfaction scores among patients who paid $159 annually for access to a primary care provider and an array of wellness services designed to improve or maintain their health, said Dr. Alejandro Quiroga, the vice president of medical affairs at Spectrum Health.

Care providers also liked the ability to spend more time with patients to focus on maintaining their health or managing costly chronic illnesses, rather than practicing under “the old model” of care that treats patients once they’re ill, Quiroga said.

After bringing Strive to an end as a separate practice, Spectrum Health now looks to integrate some of the elements into the broader Spectrum Health Medical Group, with its 1,600 physicians and care providers, to improve care delivery to patients, he said.

“There are lessons for us. First of all, we learned that it is good to experiment a little bit. We need to change the equation. We know that a lot of things in health care are broken,” Quiroga said. “There are people who are listening and want to engage differently, from employers to patients. We learned that we can get engagement (from patients).

“We learned that there are providers who want to deliver care in a different way. They want to be ahead of treating chronic conditions and be more proactive and they have great expertise. So we’re retaining those and we’re keeping those providers and they’re going to provide that type of care within our clinics. We just need to figure out a way to scale that.”

Spectrum Health informed Strive members earlier this summer about the decision to close the practice. Care providers at the Strive location have been reassigned to other practices within the Spectrum Health Medical Group.

Strive operated under a membership model and blended primary care with wellness services to focus on maintaining and improving a person’s health. The practice sought to better engage patients so they better cared for their own health. Wellness services that came with an annual membership included coaching in lifestyle, health, weight management and disease prevention. Members also had access to classes on nutrition and cooking as well as exercise groups.

The practice needed 2,500 to 3,000 paying members to sustain itself. By the time the decision was made to close, Strive had signed up about 1,200 members, Quiroga said. He called Strive’s closing “very sad.”

“Strive definitely was out of the box. It was out of the box, we think, for West Michigan, and it was out of the box for Spectrum Health,” he said. “It’s very difficult for an organization to first of all have to take back an interesting project like this and make the decision that we can no longer sustain this effort.”

Members at Strive also could have genetic tests performed to determine their future health risks. The results enabled clinicians to craft a personalized care plan for members to follow to maintain or improve their health and mitigate their risk of illnesses, or to better manage costly chronic medical conditions.

Quiroga considers Strive a clinical success in that the health system could potentially use the proactive approach across its Spectrum Health Medical Group to improve health and change how physicians connect with patients. Although Strive did not succeed as a business, active members “were very happy with the model” and felt the practice’s personalized approach helped them, Quiroga said.

Strive’s closing “doesn’t mean we’re not going to try to innovate,” he said.

“I consider this part of our ongoing way to reinvent the way we deliver care,” Quiroga said. “Right now, we’re really revamping a lot of thinking in primary care.”

Strive’s inability to succeed financially “didn’t have a straightforward answer,” Quiroga said.

The downtown location may have been a factor and “maybe a different location may have been better,” he said. Spectrum Health opted to house the practice downtown and appeal to people and employers based in the central business district.

“Maybe it was too early, maybe it’s too new, maybe it’s just (that) we do not have a big enough market yet in West Michigan,” Quiroga said. “Maybe we were early on in this journey and the market was just not completely ready for that, unfortunately.”

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