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October 1, 2014

ThedaCare Sheds Light on Future of Healthcare Shawano

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 Shawano Community Conversation.

Healthcare Leaders Meet with Shawano 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 Shawano Community Conversation.

Held at The Gathering, 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.”

Dr. Gruner and Dorothy Erdmann, CEO of Shawano Medical Center, also updated attendees on the construction progress of the new ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano, which is being built adjacent to ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. The topping off ceremony for the new facility was held last week as Boldt Construction crews put the structure’s highest beams into place.

Erdmann also discussed the recently announced collaboration with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College which includes an NWTC’s nursing program on site at the hospital. A 5,000-square foot learning center is being constructed within the larger medical center to house both classroom and laboratory teaching equipment for the nursing students. Erdmann said the program is the first-of-its kind between a technical college and a health system.

Dr. Gruner said community involvement is important to ThedaCare. Supporting an initiative in Shawano County to raise awareness about the dangers of binge drinking is one example of local involvement. Shawano’s Community Health Action Team (CHAT) identified alcohol abuse as an area of local concern and decided to support a local AODA task force that was developing an awareness campaign drawing attention to binge drinking. Several educational road signs designed to spark conversations about alcohol use are going up around Shawano, said AODA task force and CHAT member Matty Matheson.

“To get people to change their behaviors, we need to raise awareness and educate them first. We hope people will see the billboards and then start talking about the issue,” she said. “For example, one sign points out how we in Wisconsin have binge drinking levels twice the national average while another says that 60 percent of high school students don’t drink to help ease that peer pressure that ‘everyone is doing it.’”

Matheson said alcohol abuse is an important health and social issue in the Shawano area and she’s grateful ThedaCare is helping to address it. “We’re spending money on diseases and problems related to alcohol that people might not even realize,” she said.

As for choosing road signs instead of another advertising option, Matheson said it’s something everyone will see. “We looked at other communication options, but with a road sign you have a captive audience. Everyone drives; not everyone is on social media or will look at something you send in the mail,” she said. “We’re very excited about it.”

The AODA task force, with CHAT supports, are also putting together a discussion guide to go along with the billboards as part of their awareness campaign so parents have some ideas about how to talk about them with their children, depending on their age. Matheson said a survey will also be done after the signs have been put into place to determine their effectiveness.

Consumerism was another theme of this morning’s event, with people having greater decision-making power than ever before over their insurance coverages 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 get eliminated, too. For example the care coordinator will set up a tablet computer at the home of a patient with mobility issues, so she can have face-to-face conversations with her care team, and upload vital information, such as blood sugar levels.

“Team-based care is all about the patient and his or her needs. We uniquely tailor the care for each patient, deciding the best treatment options and scheduling for the situation,” said Michael Williams, MD, a family medicine doctor with ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. “We use technology, such as our electronic medical records to keep everyone – not just the medical doctor, but the others working with the patient – updated and informed.”

Dr. Williams said team-based care is especially helpful when patients have multiple health concerns, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and behavioral health concerns. “It’s also good for the patient to hear the same message – such as quitting smoking or losing weight – from different people in different ways since that will help solidify its importance to the patients,” he said. “Patients will also identify a team of providers that they’re working with – it’s not just about the doctor so they know there are other people they can turn to if they have questions.”

“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 CHAT in place 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. In Shawano, that community benefit was $2,523,919.

ThedaCare already held a Community Conversation in Oshkosh and Waupaca and will hold events in the coming weeks in Fox Cities, 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.