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June 7, 2012

Should hospitals be in fitness business? CEOs explain why they're opening gyms

Daily Briefing

    More hospitals are opening fitness centers in preparation for a future when keeping a local community healthy will be as vital as treating patients when they are ill.

    Beyond serving as gyms for adults, the centers offer an opportunity for physician-prescribed physical therapy and rehab, several New Jersey hospital CEOs tell NJ Spotlight. Clients at either of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway-owned fitness centers also are screened for basic health indicators like body fat and blood pressure.

    Fitness and wellness services can represent a hefty investment with unclear ROI, but executives note that the Affordable Care Act seeks to reward hospitals that promote wellness and reduce reimbursement to hospitals with high readmission rates. Additionally, Medicare ACOs will give health care providers a share of the money saved through improved population health.

    Barry Ostrowsky, CEO of New Jersey-based Barnabas Health—which operates a fitness center—says that payers do not currently reimburse the health system for its wellness initiatives. However, he argues that preventive care is a core element of Barnabas's mission.

    “When your specialty is treating sickness, among the things you know is how people get sick, so we are a credible source for helping people,” Ostrowsky says. “I think it’s time for us to pay attention to things that aren’t sickness care” (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight, 6/4).

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