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Interim CEO Sees Summa Health System's Future as Bright and Diffrerent

Summa HQ on Akron's north side
Summa Health System
Summa Health System Corporate Headquarters

Cliff Deveny, MD
Dr. Cliff Deveny, Summa Health System

It’s been two months since Dr. Cliff Deveny returned to Akron from running Locus Health IT medical software company in Virginia. He was brought in as the interim CEO of Summa Heath System following the turmoil that led to the ouster of Dr. Thomas Malone as the nonprofit’s CEO. Deveny sat down with WKSU’s Tim Rudell to talk about where Summit County’s biggest employer has been, is now and where it could be heading.

Summa expansion
Credit Summa Health System
Summa Health System
Architectural rendering Summa downtown campus expansion

Dr. Deveny, who grew up in Akron and was with Summa in the past. He says that upon his return to lead the health system he found "there was a lot of trepidation, a culture of trust had been lost"among the people of Summa.

But that that seems to be rapidly reversing -- especially after recent announcements of renewed investment in hospital infrastructure and organizational changes.  "We are going to be breaking ground on a new hospital that has been overdue on the Akron City campus.  And that happens on May 15th."

But, Deveny says, perhaps the biggest difference he saw on his return to northeast Ohio is "the competition (in healthcare delivery) and the intensity of competition." The market has been consolidating and the big players like Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital and Summa are aggressively trying to develop their futures.

There are also fundamental changes in how people want healthcare delivered to them, according to Deveny. He says more and more, there is a desire among patients to make data-based decision on where to get care.  And to seek not only the best cost options, but option that provide convenience and especially, speedy access.

Asked if the offerings of basic health services delivery from retail stores is an indicator of the change, he says “absolutely.”

Deveny foresees fundamental change on the horizon for health systems overall , and for healthcare in general.

"The big costs -- drugs cost more,  labor is more expensive, construction is much more expensive than every before -- that pressure hasn't let up."

He says he sees movement toward the kind of services delivery in Australia, the Scandinavian countries, and the U.K. A two-tier system with basic care provided to everyone in a Medicare type of program, and then the option to buy “up” for more or better coverage.