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Michigan Medicine

A Minute with Marschall

Why We Partner

February 6th, 2023

In January we announced a partnership with the Sparrow Health System which will strengthen our ability to provide quality health care to Lansing and other communities beyond southeast Michigan. We anticipate final closure on our agreement in March.

The agreement will build upon U-M Health’s current statewide clinical network, which includes University of Michigan Health-West, MyMichigan Health, Chelsea Hospital and several innovative collaborations with Trinity Health.

This growth will help us realize our vision of creating a premier statewide system of highly coordinated care, while expanding our mission as a statewide referral site for the most critically ill patients.

Some question why we need to extend our health system with these partnerships across the state. They worry that we risk growing too fast or expanding too far. There is also the concern that we could lose focus on communities where we are already established. 

There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but I suggest a simple one: We grow because more patients need our services. Our high-quality health care, exceptional academic standards and advanced research are in high demand. Remember, we have a lofty mission – to advance health to serve Michigan and the world. Additionally, an expanded network will advance our mission in education and clinical research – both key components of our mission.  

Each of our partnerships are different and provide a unique set of opportunities and benefits for our growth. In this agreement, Sparrow will become a fully owned entity within U-M Health. More importantly, we believe this partnership is a necessary step forward which provides us with future long-term gains.

The partnership will also build on U-M Health’s minority investment in Sparrow’s Physicians Health Plan (PHP). PHP provides high-quality health care coverage to more than 70,000 members and 300 employers across Michigan and includes a Medicare Advantage plan.

From a More Personal Perspective, our connection with Sparrow allows us to collaborate, as needed, in the care of patients in the Lansing area at 115 sites, including E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, community hospitals in Carson City, Charlotte, Ionia and St. Johns. There are nearly 500 Sparrow primary care providers and specialists serving patients across the region. 

Sparrow’s health care professionals serve a diverse population supporting more inclusive work within our clinical, educational and research priorities.

Our commitment to Sparrow is a major investment in people and resources – all of which fits with our mission, vision and values  – and encompasses expansion goals that we have already planned as a health system.

Let’s not forget that a partnership at its heart is about a merger of people. Not everyone at Michigan Medicine will have the opportunity to work directly with team members from Sparrow but for those of you who do cross paths, please extend a welcoming hand.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this partnership. Write your comments in the discussion box below.  


  • I do not have an available return visit appointment for 10 months. How does expanding and increasing the demand on our services help any patient?

    Are we expanding out footprint regardless of the quality of care we can deliver?

    • While it may not seem like expanding into areas further away from Ann Arbor will provide more services to our immediate community, it actually will help us build on what we already provide by giving us access to more resources, including an expanded health plan. At the same time reaching beyond the Ann Arbor area allows us to advance our mission to care for more patients, educate future clinicians and research new discoveries. Our services are in great demand and we recognize that can cause scheduling difficulties for our patients. We are working to improve access for our current service lines as part of one of our strategic priorities for the health system. I believe our partnerships won’t add to our current challenges, but help to support our efforts towards continuous improvement in the future.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on hospitals and health systems nationally and internationally. Our partnerships and mergers have become a necessary step to make healthcare better and more accessible.

    It is very exciting news to be able to partner with Sparrow Health System and various healthcare leaders to develop a shared culture of excellence, build relationships with customers and networks to improve quality of care, geographic coverage, expand services and enhance clinical talent.

    Our partnership with Sparrow would allow us to expand access to healthcare and specialty services, support our efforts to reduce healthcare costs and meet the needs of our patients and communities, enhance operational efficiencies and meet our long-term strategies to enhance the patient experience, improve care and increase the overall population health.

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Lamia. This is an exciting opportunity and we look forward to the great partnership!

  • For patients who live up north and have to travel to Ann Arbor can this be an opportunity to use Sparrow facilities then to travel to Ann Arbor especially when using Medicaid transportation which has mileage restrictions.

    • As part of our proposed partnership with Sparrow Health System, we are committed to enhancing the clinical services delivered in Lansing and the surrounding communities. Core to that commitment is to reduce travel and inconvenience when we can and still ensure patients receive high quality care. Because our partnership is not complete, we are still planning for what those services will be and when they will be activated. As plans are finalized, we intend to communicate with our communities and local physicians so they are aware of new services. For existing or future Michigan Medicine patients that would benefit from these services, we would welcome and support them getting care at Sparrow. We and they will need to work with their referring physicians and insurance companies to make sure this transition of care is as seamless as possible for the patients.

  • Doctor Runge, I appreciate the efforts to expand Michigan Medicine Quality of Care across the state. I hope that “The Leaders and Best” would remain the common theme throughout the system as an end goal. In addition to Michigan Medicine’s expansion being an increasing benefit to our state’s patients, it will also increase the attractiveness of our medical school to global medical students; win/win.

    • Without a doubt, David, we will provide our exceptional care as we embark on this partnership. I agree our mission to educate the leaders and the best will also deeply benefit from this expansion. Thank you for your comments.

  • I think this strategic partnership makes a lot of sense for the wider clinical mission of Michigan Medicine. I’m curious to hear more about the planned integration of critical services and technology with Sparrow, and how we balance those efforts with other major initiatives, such as the new pavilion.

    • There is a lot of planning taking place right now about how we will integrate our services and technologies together. Based on our thoughtful approach to this partnership at the beginning and the work we continue to do to bring our best practices together, we believe the Sparrow integration will blend very well with all our future planned initiatives. We will continue to share information about this integration as we move forward. I thank you for your thoughtful concern.

  • There is the concern about “mission drift” where an organization grows too fast to solidify their core vision and values which is what patients often experience first. I live in Petoskey all summer and I can state that McLaren was not ready to move there and patients are traveling to Munson just to avoid them. When two organizations partner this means two cultures are involved and these can be more difficult to merge and integrate than the finances.

    • It is true that culture change is one of the most important factors to consider when two organizations partner together and unfortunately, many groups don’t consider this enough. We joined with Sparrow because we shared the same values and knew they would support our mission to advance health to serve Michigan and the world. Going forward, we will put great effort into ensuring that we will respect each other’s unique culture, while building on each other’s strengths, sharing best practices, and supporting one another when needed. That is what a team is all about.

  • Thanks for the hard work you have done to create these networks. They are essential for the growth and success of our mission.

    • I strongly agree with you, Tom. I am not the only one to thank, however. It takes a full team of leaders and staff to evaluate, plan and execute a strategic partnership like this. I am truly indebted to so many team members who worked many months to see this project through,and continue to work to ensure its success. Thank you for your support.

  • My concern is that we have growth yet many of the current employees are having to choose between buying gas or food. Inflation has been dramatic and the 4% increase in pay does not cover the 18-20% inflation of goods. How does this merger help those fellow employees that are truly struggling to feed our families? It seems that we need to keep up with inflation not further our reach.

    • Inflation cannot be easily solved by any one group of people or even one organization or industry. However, strategic partnerships such as these can help Michigan Medicine become more reliable and stable in the future by giving us a stronger network within Michigan to support our clinical services, research, and educational endeavors. By building a stronger future, we help to safeguard our employees and their families from instabilities in the marketplace which might be difficult to control in the future.

      • I am all for growth and expansion, as that builds a stronger, more robust and financially stable business. Michigan Medicine is a leader for sure, in so many areas! What Michigan Medicine is not doing is taking care of its current employees financially. Our work force continues to weaken, turnover is high and jobs that use to be coveted get very few strong candidates if any applying. The across the board 4% merit while very nice, in principle, a merit increases is for workers based on their job performance set by employer criteria. What that did is reward exemplary workers, average, and even below average workers with the same raise, and not criteria set by the employer. How does that motivate staff? Many believe it hurt. In addition, remote workers also had huge savings in commuting time, and commuting expenses by being at home and got the same as staff who reported to work every day and continued to incur these time and financial costs. Many loyal and long-term employees in essence are taking home significantly less money that a few years ago while remaining loyal to MM. Michigan Medicine is not helping staff keep up with the record high inflation for over two years and our ability to get ahead. I love what I do and appreciate my co-workers and my leadership team. Thank you for hearing me out. Go Blue!

        • Marschall Runge

          Jeff, I appreciate your thoughts and the time you took to provide your feedback. Inflation has had a big impact on all of us individually. It has also had a big impact on our organization and we see this in our supply chain issues and higher expense costs. Staffing costs have also increased but retention of our current faculty, staff and learners remains very important to us. We, the leadership team, continue to focus on compensation priorities and are planning to offer our FY24 merit program despite our current budget constraints. We are committed to our faculty, staff and learners, and appreciate everyone’s patience during these difficult times.

  • Is it possible that this partnership could lead to an acquisition?

    • Once this tentative agreement with Sparrow is finalized, Sparrow will be a part of the U-M Health organization, similar to U-M Health West (formerly Metro Health).

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