The leader of one of Akron’s major health systems wants to help keep you out of his hospital.
The nation’s medical system needs an overhaul to control costs and to improve the health of patients, Akron General Health System President and Chief Executive Dr. Thomas “Tim” Stover said during a talk Thursday at the monthly Akron Roundtable luncheon.
The cure, he said, is a focus on wellness.
“The future of medicine, in my mind, is not in the inpatient environment,” Stover said. “It’s in maintaining health.”
Akron General already is going down this path by providing coordinated outpatient services and medically based fitness at its Health and Wellness Centers in Bath Township, Green and Stow, Stover told a crowd of more than 500 at Quaker Square in downtown Akron.
But to fully address rising health-care costs and growing physician dissatisfaction, Stover said, all health-care providers, payers and patients need to make changes.
More hospitals and doctors need to focus on promoting wellness, and insurers and government payers then need to provide financial incentives for those efforts, he said.
“I should be teaching my patients every day how to stay away from me,” Stover said.
Patients also must take personal responsibility by making healthier choices, he added. Alcohol use, smoking, lack of exercise and obesity are among the top unhealthy lifestyle choices driving health-care spending.
“The wellness model is the only one that makes sense,” he said.
Rising prices for medical care are pinching companies and their workers.
Over the past decade, the cost for health coverage increased 97 percent, according to a recent report from the nonprofit research groups Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. During that same time period, wages rose 33 percent.
The average total annual premium for family health coverage reached $15,745 this year, up 4 percent from the previous year. The average worker is paying $4,316 this year toward the total cost of family health coverage — a $187 increase from the previous year and $2,179 more than a decade ago.
“People are starting to realize we can’t afford the sick-care model anymore,” Stover said.
Stover said he also wants to work with others to promote wellness. For example, he said, he recently had an informal conversation with an Ohio State University physician to compare wellness strategies.
“They’re going to work with us, and we’re going to work with them,” he said.
Unless things change, he said, the nation will face continued rising costs, as well as a likely shortage of doctors to provide care.
Stover quoted a recent survey of physicians that showed 85 percent said their profession is in decline and 61 percent said they would retire now if possible.
Potential cuts in payments from the federal Medicare program could result in “docs leaving the profession in hordes,’’ Stover said.
During a brief question-and-answer at the end of the event, Stover defended the need for competition in town by maintaining two adult health-care systems. Without competition, he said, medical costs for the community tend to increase.
But he acknowledged that there are areas in which it makes sense for Akron General and its rival, Summa Health System, to work together — particularly in training future doctors and providing psychological services.
“When it makes sense for the patient,” he said, “then I am willing to talk about it.”
The next speaker in the monthly Akron Roundtable series will be Glen De Vries, board president of Dancing Classrooms of New York City and the national Dancing Classrooms network.
The luncheon event will begin at noon Nov. 15 at Quaker Station, 135 S. Broadway, Akron. The cost is $20. For more information or to register, visit www.akronroundtable.org or call 330-247-8682.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.