Detroit — Henry Ford Health System’s plan to build a new research hospital, while expanding its facilities with advanced technologies and a partnership with Michigan State University, will increase competition among the state’s hospital systems and lead to more talent in the medical pipeline, two experts said Wednesday.
The $1.8 million development will include an expanded emergency department with space for trauma and behavioral health, intensive care units and technologically advanced operating suites with new equipment to “keep residents safe,” Henry Ford Health leaders said Wednesday during the announcement. If the nonprofit’s board of directors approves the plan, construction on the new hospital is expected to start next year and be completed in 2029.
The effort comes as Henry Ford’s flagship hospital has aged and other facilities require updates, industry experts said.
“Our health care infrastructure in Michigan is aged and needs updated infrastructure,” said Alexander Calderone, president of the Birmingham-based consultancy, Calderone Advisory Group. “The health system has been underserving people in this area for years. Anything to increase capacity and increase research in the area is a great idea and accrete to our quality of life. An added benefit would be to create more density in the city to add development to serve most constituencies.”
The new hospital would house 877 beds, the same number as the existing hospital, but a new patient tower is expected to have 350 of those. All of the beds at the new hospital will be in private rooms, and the main branch will retain patient beds turned into private rooms, but the number is expected to be smaller than the current capacity. Modernized spaces include procedural, cardiac catheterization, physiology labs, interventional radiology, robotic platforms to focus on neuroscience and cancer transplant.
The plan includes a residential development with 550 market-rate and some affordable housing, which will include the eventual renovation of the current One Ford Place Administration Building. There will be retail space, a multi-story parking deck, greenspace areas with outside basketball courts across Amsterdam Street to south of the Pistons Center, Pistons officials said, and possibly a hotel. No timeline was given on those developments.
‘Cornerstone of academic campus’
At the heart of the project is a joint medical research center that would bring clinical research, clinic trials, precision medicine, artificial intelligences, machine learning and population health research to change “how health care is delivered not just here, but everywhere,” said Robert Riney, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health.
The research center will be constructed south of the new hospital facility.
While advancing cancer and health disparities research, leaders said, it would fuel medical discoveries through the integrated partnerships of scientists, academics and public health practitioners. For MSU, this includes the compounds of Cisplatin, a therapy treatment for cancer first discovered in 1965 by Michigan State researcher Dr. Barnett Rosenberg and advancements in surgical treatments for prostate cancer.
This partnership includes the integration of Henry Ford physicians as MSU faculty, adding on to the university’s 109 research, 85 clinical and 10 new educational faculty appointments. Currently, the university has about 85 students at Henry Ford hospitals across the region. University officials said they’re already seeing a return on their investment. Last year, they made 18 pilot research grants and five cancer research grants totaling $1 million, with 40% addressing disparities in cancer outcomes.
“We’ve already submitted National Institute of Health grants, which is a huge milestone for our partnership,” said MSU interim President Teresa Woodruff.
The arrangement will place “MSU and Henry Ford Health scientists adjacent to educators and clinicians to better develop a new standard of health for all,” Woodruff said.
Henry Ford Health and MSU will be working together on research in areas including cancer, translating into improved care the hospital network provides university and Henry Ford officials said.
“We’ll share more details about what that looks like in the coming years,” hospital leaders said.
With the auto industry in a transition toward electrification, it’s undoubtable that the health care industry in Detroit would change, said Calderone, an industry expert.
“If you’re asking if this is a competition, the answer is yes,” Calderone said. “It is in response to other health care system moves, but also the state is in need for additional capacity and infrastructure. Most facilities are old and other hospitals have made recent announcements like the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Taken collectively, to some degree, this could be in response to competitive threat, but my gut tells me it’s about fulfilling a need in the region.”
In December, the UM Health System said it was buying the Lansing-based Sparrow Health System, which is expanding its statewide system.
The Henry Ford Health plan doesn’t appear to be a move to compete with Corewell Health, Michigan’s largest hospital system, following the Beaumont-Spectrum merger last year, said Allan Baumgarten, a health market expert at the University of Minnesota who studies the Metro Detroit hospital market.
“Henry Ford thinks that its biggest rival is, instead, the University of Michigan’s health system,” Baumgarten told The News. “The University of Michigan has been investing more than a billion dollars in the last five years to basically build patient care towers in Ann Arbor” and has acquired the former Metro Health hospital in the Grand Rapids area.
The development plan also “reflects a fundamental need” because “the original Henry Ford buildings are kind of tired. … I think they saw this as both a necessity but also an opportunity,” Baumgarten said.
What about university pipelines?
While Henry Ford is prioritizing its newly formed pipeline with MSU, hospital leaders said they will retain a promised partnership with Wayne State University, Detroit’s premiere research institution.
“We all have a shared vision for and commitment to making Detroit a national destination for medical education and training,” Henry Ford Health leaders said in a statement. “A key differentiator in most major cities in the U.S. is the presence of a world class hub for medical innovation, research and training. We’re all working toward that goal.”
Wayne State University officials didn’t have an exact number of how many residents lean on educational and medical resources from surrounding affiliate hospitals. The University of Michigan did not respond for comment.
“Wayne State has enjoyed a great relationship with Henry Ford on the educational and research fronts for many years, and we anticipate that will continue as we both continue to serve the Detroit community,” said WSU President M. Roy Wilson.
MSU expects more faculty appointments from Henry Ford Health in their colleges of Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine and Nursing and said there will “absolutely be opportunities for MSU’s medical students” at the new hospital development. “As of October 2022, the number of MSU students has expanded across all Henry Ford hospital sites, with nearly 20 third-year students currently at the new College of Human Medicine Detroit campus at Henry Ford Hospital,” MSU spokesman Dan Olsen told The Detroit News.
Each year MSU spends at least $20 million with businesses in Detroit and enrolls over 900 Detroiters, Olsen said.
“With this partnership and research facility, we aim to explore ways to further connect our presence to continue to have a positive impact, create a culture around innovation that brings together neighborhoods, industry, government and academia to strengthen and support the economy and opportunity for Detroiters,” Olsen said.
“We continue to expand our presence and investment in Detroit by offering access to opportunities like the Apple Developer Academy, our recognized Detroit Community Music School that works with K-12 schools throughout the city, and hundreds of other grass-roots, on-the-ground projects that engage Detroiters and Detroit neighborhoods,” he said.
MSU also expects the partnership to provide medical and nursing education opportunities for Detroiters, increase the diversity of future health care providers and draw the best practitioners, researchers, students and industry partners. They are still working to finalize which disciplines will be housed in the health sciences research center.
Henry Ford and MSU leaders “believe together,” Olsen said, “we can make a greater impact as closely aligned partners than they could individually.”