The Clinic's Cosgrove Says Akron General Will Expand Cancer Care, U.S. Healthcare System is Fragile

Apr 13, 2017

Dr. Toby Cosgrove is president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.
Credit CLEVELAND CLINIC

It’s been one year since Akron General hospital became fully part of the Cleveland Clinic system. It’s also been a period of uncertainty in U.S. healthcare policy.

WKSU's Jeff St.Clair  sat down with Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove to talk about that and get an update on how the Akron General merger is progressing.

Overall, Cosgrove says the cultures of the two hospital systems "have melded very nicely. I think the main reason is that we’re both directed toward looking after patients. Our mantra is patients first. And having that as a North Star it helps a lot."

What’s next for Akron General? "We’ve have not fully implemented our electronic medical record, we’ve got a big implementation coming this fall. We continue to add to new facilities.

"Edwin Shaw is going to be replaced with a new rehabilitation facility, which I think is terrific. We continue to build out and modernize the hospital in terms of equipment. And we also have the opportunity to bring increasingly sophisticated sub-specialties here and recruit doctors."

Such as? "We’re heavily into epilepsy and neurologic diseases. We’re bringing more cardiologists here and we’re going to expand our coverage for cancer."

Congress was not able to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Was that a relief for you? "Yes, I was pleased to see that because I didn’t think that was particularly advantageous for the public. There were a lot of people who would be left without coverage, which is not the direction we should be headed.

"I also thought it was a good thing for hospitals and delivery systems across the U.S. Last year 52 percent of hospitals in the U.S. lost money, and if you have an increasing number of patients coming in that have no coverage, that’s going to make it even worse.

"It’s a very fragile system and a major change like that could hurt a lot of people and a lot of facilities."

The American Hospital Association along with many other groups signed a letter to the president this week asking them to continue the subsidies in the health-care exchanges. There’s talk of cutting them. Do you feel they are still needed?

"Right now we have an opportunity. I think repealing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t getting to the root cause of the problem. The root cause of the problem really is the increasing cost of health care.

"And the demand for health care is going to continue to increase because of two things: More and more people are older, and here are more things that we can do for people to return them to health. So I think there’s an opportunity to begin to address portions of the healthcare delivery system -- the part where people are sick, and the part where we want to keep people well.

"And I think there’s a lot Congress can do to encourage that and make us more efficient as we deliver care and keep more people well. I hope this will get bipartisan support to move in that direction and I’ve had discussions with people in the White House on that topic."

What did you talk about? "We looked for example at why does it have to be licensed in 50 states, why don’t we have interoperability, why do we prevent hospitals from coming together in a system by the federal trade commission?

"Why do we not have more financial incentives to keep well?

"There are things about smoking, sugar etc. that are driving people to increase the cost of health care. Right now one third of people in the U.S. are obese. That accounts for 10 percent of the healthcare costs in the United States.

"So we need to understand that we’re never going to catch up with the cost of healthcare unless we also begin to keep people well."

Cosgrove was in Washington D.C. earlier this week as part of President Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, made up of prominent CEO’s from across US industries. He was in Akron on Wednesday to present an update on Akron General Hospital, the latest addition to the Cleveland Clinic system.