Wellness was a major theme for the panelists at the annual Healthcare Summit.

Instead of treating you just when you’re sick, health care is increasingly about making sure you stay healthy.

That shift in approach and how patients will benefit was a major theme at the sixth annual Cincy Magazine Healthcare Summit at the Sharonville Convention Center in November.

A panel representing health care providers, employers and benefit consultants was moderated by Tim Schmalz, vice president of large group business for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio, one of the sponsors of the breakfast event.

One of the biggest changes in the health care landscape is the shift from a fee-for-service approach to being paid to keep patients healthy, Schmalz pointed out.

Panelist Mark Clement, CEO at TriHealth, one of the region’s largest health care systems, admits it is a challenge for health care organizations to re-engineer their systems to reflect the new approach.

“Hospitals are used to delivering on exceptional episodes of care and we have to move to an approach that does that and also manages population health and rewards providers and physicians” for keeping patients healthy, he says.

Karen Mueller, executive vice president and partner with Horan, a Cincinnati-based insurance and benefits consulting firm, says Cincinnati is blessed with high-quality health care services.

“Maybe we’re not as efficient as we should be,” she says, but the region is moving to more efficient care approaches and the speed of those changes is accelerating.

Mike Garfield, COO for Mercy Health’s Cincinnati market, sees a growth in the preventative health career approach, including services such as health screenings and blood pressure checks. He says more education is needed to explain the benefits.

Mercy practices what it preaches. A focus group of employees with the hospital system was able to reduce blood pressure readings by an average of 15 percent, he says, through regular screening and taking corrective steps.

A critical element in the changing health care landscape, says Mueller, is making sure health care recipients understand the changes and why they’re being made.

“Until we get to a healthy population,” she says, “we’re not able to deliver the triple aim”: the industry’s widely stated goal of improving the quality of care for patients, the overall population health and at a reduced cost per capita.

The fourth panelist, Krista Somershoe, a human resources generalist at RelaDyne LLC., a Blue Ash-based provider of industrial lubricants and services, says the biggest challenge for employers is educating their employees on the changes in health insurance, particularly rising co-pays and deductibles.

“A decade ago,” she says, “a $5 co-pay was pretty common. Employees see that today as something that’s been taken away from them.”

The message to employees should be that they’re not losing benefits but gaining more participation in their care by engaging in wellness initiatives and health screening, she says.

Many employers aren’t ready for the sweeping changes in health care reporting and she recommends partnering with a benefits consultant such as Horan.

In response to an audience question, Clement and Garfield agreed there is no nursing shortage in the Cincinnati area, although more are needed in some specialties such as surgical services and intensive care. Garfield says Mercy is doing more in-house training to fill the need in those specialties.

While Cincinnati is a pretty traditional health care market in terms of payment models and benefit designs, “that is changing,” Clement says.

“It’s an exciting time in health care,” he says. “We’re finally getting it right.”