Akron General’s business strategy to spread health and wellness across the country is taking off at a fevered pace.
The Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) is announcing today that Integrated Wellness Partners will develop and operate a fitness center on the Rootstown Township campus.
Integrated Wellness Partners is a for-profit, 50-50 venture between Akron General and Akron-based Signet Development Ltd. The partnership formed about 1½ years ago to help hospitals, universities, cities and other customers nationwide develop their own versions of Akron General’s popular health and wellness outpatient centers.
Under the agreement with NEOMED, Integrated Wellness Partners will design and run a medically based fitness center similar to Akron General’s LifeStyles that will sell memberships to students, faculty, staff and community members.
“It’s a turnkey, comprehensive development operation solution for health and wellness centers across the country,” said Mark S. Corr, Signet’s chief operating officer. “It just so happens the first one is here in our backyard.”
The partnership also is finalizing plans with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for a health and wellness center in suburban Columbus and working with 10 other clients nationwide on projects in various stages of development.
The deals through Integrated Wellness Partners give Akron General the opportunity to capitalize on a niche it has developed since opening its first Health & Wellness Center in Bath Township in 1996.
Signet brings its experience helping clients with construction oversight, financing and legal issues.
“We’ve created a model that has gotten national attention,” said Doug Ribley, senior vice president of health and wellness services for Akron General Health System. “Now that’s turning into a viable business.”
Since Integrated Wellness Partners launched in 2011, the venture has been able to more than pay for itself through fees for providing feasibility studies and other consultation services, Ribley said.
He said he expects even more hospitals and other customers to become interested in starting their own health and wellness centers in the coming years as people look to bring down health-care costs through wellness and prevention.
The OSU Wexner Medical Center is working with the city of New Albany to develop an outpatient medical center that will include a fitness center managed by Integrated Wellness Partners, said Larry Lewellan, Wexner’s vice president of care coordination and health promotion. The goal is to break ground this spring and open the following year.
“We haven't done anything like this,” Lewellan said. “We're so excited to have Integrated Wellness Partners, because they've been so successful ...
“Health systems like ours need to learn to deliver more services that are community-based, not just in hospitals.”
$176 million expansion
NEOMED’s planned fitness center is part of a massive $176 million expansion project under way that will double the size of the NEOMED campus in the next 18 months with on-campus housing, a research and graduate education facility, space for a math high school sponsored by Rootstown schools, physician offices, a conference hall and retail space.
Along with being involved with the health and wellness center through Integrated Wellness Partners, Signet Development is developing other portions of the campus expansion project and providing real estate management services for the university’s first on-campus housing when it opens in the fall.
Akron General also has an agreement to lease space within NEOMED’s new health, wellness and medical education complex to provide physical therapy and warm water therapy services, the university is announcing today.
NEOMED is working with Integrated Wellness Partners to offer health and wellness education to its students in the medically supervised fitness center when it opens next year, NEOMED President Jay A. Gershen said.
Teaching future doctors, pharmacists and other health-care providers to promote wellness among patients is important, Gershen said.
“If we can change peoples’ behaviors through this, I think we’re going to bring down the cost of health care,” he said.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or email@example.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.