Last week, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. And while the disease has made its way into the U.S., the primary activity thus far has taken place in China.
But for ProMedica CEO Randy Oostra, coronavirus isn’t something he can say is someone else’s problem in a far-off part of the world. That’s because ProMedica, the Toledo, Ohio-based health system, with a footprint across nearly 30 states and more than 55,000 employees, has strategic partnerships in China with investors as well as sister-hospital relationships in the country. It has people on the ground working with its Chinese partners on a day-to-day basis.
ProMedica is part of a growing trend of provider organizations, such as UPMC and Cleveland Clinic, expanding their business into China. Health Evolution spoke with Oostra and Kathleen Krueger, President of ProMedica International, to talk about the organization’s efforts in China, how ProMedica has evolved in a post-acute world, finding similarities between the two countries, dealing with coronavirus and more.[Read more: Is China the land of opportunity for U.S. health care?]
Health Evolution: It’s still very early into the coronavirus but what impact has it had on you or ProMedica at this point?
Randy Oostra: It has affected our planning. We were planning on taking a group there soon, but we’ll delay that. We’re monitoring the situation and trying to make decisions about what we do and don’t do. The WHO announcement will affect us a bit more. We’ll find ways to communicate and think about other things we can do.
Health Evolution: Does this make you more or less likely to do business in China in the future?
Oostra: I think it shows no matter where you live in the world, we’re all looking for ways to offer the most efficient, highest quality of care. This doesn’t deter us from interest in China. It shows us the importance of working together. When we’re there, over and over again we keep recognizing they’re just like us and have the same goals. I don’t see it how it deters us we’ve just got to be careful.
Health Evolution: What made ProMedica decide to do business in China—what was your reasoning?
Oostra: Over the last decade, we have changed our view of what we’re trying to do. We have become more of an integrated delivery system in northwest Ohio/southeast Michigan. We had hospitals, employed doctors, worked with independent doctors, had a health plan. Along the way, over the last decade, we increasingly have done more work in the area of the social determinants of health. Realizing that not only is clinical care important, but also the social aspect of people’s lives. As we thought more broadly about health care, we acquired a company called HCR ManorCare a year-and-a-half ago. It is one of the largest post-acute care companies in the U.S.
We’ve changed our view to much more health and wellbeing. We’ve done a lot of things outside of our traditional walls. In Ohio, like a lot of states, we have had several Chinese investors. We were encouraged to go to China and talk to a variety of health care and business leaders who were looking to make American connections on the health and wellbeing side. Our first visit was exploratory. We came back with a really solid view and an understanding that we all care about the same things. We thought there were ways we could work together through a variety of partnerships.
Health Evolution: Talk about your efforts to date and what you’ve accomplished thus far.
Kathleen Krueger: We took a look at what that Chinese market really needed. It was clear they were looking for advisory folks to help them expand the distribution of care. The model we’re so familiar with in the U.S. and how we deliver care. They were looking for us to help advance them along.
Our work is a little bit eclectic, I’d say. We’ve done everything from establish sister-hospital relationships between our children’s hospital and a women and children’s hospital in China. We’ve sent cohorts of physicians there to give them assistance and advising on care. We have hosted director-level training programs for several hospitals across China. They’ve come to ProMedica and spent a couple of weeks with us …learning and exploring the American health system and collaborating on different ideas. More recently, we are focused on helping them establish what we in America call the post-acute space. Helping them establish organizations around healthy senior aging and post-acute services.