More patients, hospitals needed to boost local economy

Cleveland residents are calling for increased medical care and research to spur an economic revival in the faltering city, according to a report by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

"Like other communities, Cleveland is hoping medical care and research can replace manufacturing as the area's economic engine," HSC President Paul Ginsburg said in a statement. "How that proposition works out for the community depends on, as one respondent put it, the degree to which medical care is 'exportable or that patients are imported.'"

Following this strategy, Cleveland's two largest health systems--Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals--continue to compete for more patients, expand capacity and renovate facilities.

Yet the report--based on interviews with more than 45 healthcare leaders throughout Northeast Ohio--found that some worry such competition will lead to higher healthcare costs if the hospital systems can't attract more patients from outside the Cleveland area.

"[I]f you overbuild, and expand beyond what a community needs, it will add unnecessary costs to your healthcare system," Alwyn Cassil, spokesperson for the Center for Studying Health System Change, told WCPN.

But Steven Glass, Cleveland Clinic CFO, said the hospital system has not overbuilt. "The Clinic's additional facilities and expanding capacity has been in areas where there is demand for these services," Glass told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

According to a University Hospitals statement, its plans for new facilities are based on a phased-in approach, which leaves room for future growth.

Nevertheless, the population of the Cleveland metropolitan area is aging and shrinking, "to the point that some analysts see trouble ahead if the healthcare boom persists," warned Cassil.

For more:
- read the Cleveland Plain Dealer article
- read the Center for Studying Health System Change press release
- read the WCPN article