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October 7, 2014

ThedaCare Sheds Light on Future of Healthcare Fox Cities

ThedaCare leaders are committed to bringing the future of healthcare to light, meeting today with business and community leaders to discuss changes in healthcare at the 2014 Fox Cities Community Conversation.

Healthcare Leaders Meet with Fox Cities Business, Community Leaders for Annual Community Conversation

ThedaCare leaders are committed to bringing the future of healthcare to light, meeting today with business and community leaders to discuss changes in healthcare at the 2014 Fox Cities Community Conversation.

Held at the Bridgewood Resort and Conference Center in Neenah, the annual event is an opportunity for ThedaCare leaders to share information about the past year as well as look ahead to coming changes while listening to concerns and answering questions. This year’s discussion focused on consumerism, team-based healthcare, and the shift in emphasis from treating sick people to keeping people healthy. ThedaCare CEO and President Dean Gruner, MD, said staying informed on healthcare issues is challenging since there are so many changes.

“We want to shed a light on what’s happening now and what it all means. Everyone is feeling these changes whether it’s from legislation or shifts in insurance coverage,” Dr. Gruner said. “Many of these changes are hitting patients right in the wallet – everyone needs to be smarter than ever when it comes to their healthcare.”

Dr. Gruner said one way patients can be smarter is by making healthier choices, whether it’s exercising more, quitting smoking, eating healthier or making sure they’re taking care of a chronic condition.

“When you look at a person’s health, some of it is genetic, but a lot is tied to the lifestyle choices someone makes. An estimated 70 percent of healthcare costs are related to lifestyle choices,” he said. “For example, being overweight can lead to a number of health conditions, such as heart problems and diabetes. ThedaCare’s mission is to help our communities be healthier and we’re focusing on helping people make healthier choices in their daily lives.”

Brian Burmeister, senior vice president of all of ThedaCare’s hospitals, including Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, also updated attendees on different changes ThedaCare has gone through in the past year, including affiliating with two additional hospital systems – Community Health Network in Berlin and Wild Rose Memorial Hospital. ThedaCare also placed all hospitals under a single leader to improve efficiency and make it easier to share quality initiatives and best practices among all seven ThedaCare hospitals.

Weight of the Fox Valley, a three-county initiative to build a community that achieves and maintains a healthy weight at every age, is one example of ThedaCare’s community involvement. By working with the United Way Fox Cities and other healthcare organizations, ThedaCare has shown its dedication to improving the overall health of the community, said Keren Rosenberg, program manager for Weight of the Fox Valley.

“Overweight and obesity impact the vitality of our community. It affects personal health…it affects mental health and self-esteem,” she said. “It affects worker productivity. It affects how we build our buildings and modes of transportation and even how we defend our country. There is virtually no aspect of our community not impacted by this concern.”

Weight of the Fox Valley takes advantage of current programs in place as leaders develop innovative ways to help people live healthier lives, whether it’s through more bike trails or eatsmart!, a program to help restaurant customers eat better by highlighting healthier options, Rosenberg said.

Consumerism was another theme of this morning’s event, with people having greater decision-making power than ever before over their insurance coverage and where to seek care, Dr. Gruner said

“Americans now are becoming consumers in healthcare. Employers are letting workers decide what insurance plan to choose, what doctor to see while at the same time other people are out there on the exchanges making those same decisions,” he said. “Americans are paying more for their health needs. At ThedaCare, we are doing our best to be as transparent as possible with our pricing and working closely with insurance companies to help patients get the best care for their money.”

One way ThedaCare is helping patients get the most for their healthcare dollars is its new team-based care model the health system will be piloting in a couple of its primary care clinics. Patients will have their needs met by not just a single doctor, but rather a team of healthcare professionals including nurses, pharmacists, care coordinators, behavioral health specialists and others. Boundaries, such as the walls of the clinic, will be eliminated, too. For example the care coordinator can set up a tablet computer at the home of a patient with mobility issues, who can have face-to-face conversations with her care team, and upload vital information, such as blood sugar levels.

“ThedaCare’s team-based care model is being designed to help meet the needs of our patients with multiple complicated health conditions.  The purpose of this team is to care for our patients in a holistic manner, working to treat the mind, body and soul,” said Sandra Groenewold, MD, a family medicine physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Menasha.

Dr. Groenewold shared a story of a patient with chronic disease who missed several office visits and how the care team met with him at his home to discuss his medical needs and develop a plan to improve his health. “He is setting up the steps on his terms and the team is working with him and he is agreeable now with coming into the office to be seen for appointments,” she said. “We are working to arrange transportation for him.  He is now engaged and ready to make some changes to help him feel better.”

The only community and locally owned healthcare provider in the Fox Cities, ThedaCare is active in the communities it serves.

“It all comes back to our mission of building healthier communities,” Dr. Gruner said. “There are some issues, such as obesity which are a concern in all of our communities, but there are other issues that are more local, which is why we have our Community Health Action Teams (CHAT) in place in four regions to dive into local issues and develop solutions.” 

ThedaCare also gives back to the communities it serves by providing $40,204,848 in unreimbursed services, including unreimbursed medical care, health professional education, and community benefit activities, to local communities in 2013.

ThedaCare already held Community Conversations in Oshkosh, Shawano, and Waupaca and will hold events in the coming weeks in Ripon/Berlin, New London, and Wild Rose.

Anyone wishing to receive a print copy of today’s report can contact Paula Morgen, community health manager for ThedaCare, at (920) 830-5848 or

ThedaCare™ is a community health system consisting of seven hospitals: Appleton Medical Center, Theda Clark Medical Center, ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Shawano Medical Center, Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca, Community Memorial Hospital in Berlin, and Wild Rose Memorial Hospital. ThedaCare also includes ThedaCare Physicians, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, and ThedaCare At Home. ThedaCare is one of the largest employers in Northeast Wisconsin with more than 6,175 employees. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.