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September 16, 2014

ThedaCare Sheds Light on Future of Healthcare New London

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 Waupaca Community Conversation.

Healthcare Leaders Meet with New London 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 New London Community Conversation.

Held at the Crystal Falls Banquet Facility, 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.”

Bill Schmidt, CEO of ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, also updated attendees about a plan to remodel and expand the current emergency department. The changes will increase patient privacy and create a more welcoming and comfortable space for patients and their families. ThedaCare Foundation-New London recently launched a $560,000 fundraising campaign to raise money for the project. Once 75 percent of the funds are raised, construction will begin. Schmidt is optimistic that work will begin by the end of 2015.

ThedaCare is active in local communities through its Community Health Action Team or CHAT, joining with local businesses and organizations on projects designed to improve the health of the community. In New London, CHAT was a key player in launching a new Workplace Wellness Initiative and two community gardens.

The Workplace Wellness Initiative group seeks to encourage and support local employers in providing wellness initiatives in their individual workplaces. John Solberg, executive director at Rawhide Boys Ranch, said the group is a source of best practices, collaboration and support for businesses launching programs to help improve worker health.

“This all started with an Obesity Plunge we did in New London to look at ways we can help area residents be at a healthier weight. We feel one way to achieve progress around conquering obesity is to engage employers and their employees to create effective wellness programs,” he said. “The New London Workplace Wellness group is focused on encouraging employers of all sizes to collaborate on workplace wellness.”

The New London Community Gardens program is a collaboration between the city of New London, New London Lions Club, ThedaCare, Rawhide, United Methodist Church and Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. Thirteen plots were used at the United Methodist Church site and five plots were used at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church’s site by local residents to grow produce.

“The program has worked beautifully with 300 pounds of produce given and used through our New London Community Cupboard this year as a result of both the Community Garden and the refrigerator we purchased with funds from the New London CHAT,” said Pastor Greg Watling of the United Methodist Church.

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, said Donn Furhmann, MD, a family medicine physician with ThedaCare Physicians-New London.

Complex 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.

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, the Fox Cities and Waupaca and will hold events in the coming weeks in Ripon/Berlin 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