All the Right Moves: The Resurgence of Summa Health

By Neil Allen
Thursday, September 5, 2019

The saying “no news is good news” truly rang true when it came to Summa Health over the past 18 months.


Pictured are from left: David Custodio, M.D., Senior Vice President and President of the Summa Health System Akron Campus and Cliff Deveny, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Summa Health

Following a string of organizational challenges that became very public, it seemed the healthcare provider went to ground. Sure, there was a sprinkling of media stories — positive and negative — during that time period, but nothing compared to the nearly non-stop barrage of disconcerting coverage that previously seemed the norm.

Unbeknownst to many, however, Summa Health’s leaders and supporters were quietly putting into place people, relationships and processes that would lead to what has been universally declared as a successful rebirth of a regional healthcare system.

There’s no doubt President and CEO Cliff Deveny, M.D., can be credited with much of this success. A familiar face in Akron and on the Summa campus, Dr. Deveny brought a hands-on approach back to Summa, leading needed change in a business many believed was broken beyond repair.

Prior to assuming his leadership role at Summa Health in March 2017, Dr. Deveny served as Senior Vice President for Physician Services and Clinical Integration at Catholic Health Initiatives in Englewood, Colorado. Earlier in his career, Dr. Deveny spent more than 20 years at Summa Health in a variety of clinical and senior leadership roles, including President of Summa Physicians Inc., Vice President of Clinical Services and Service Lines, and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

And though many “wins” have been recorded since he took the helm, two recent, and both typically only “once-in-a-CEO’s-career,” changes under Dr. Deveny’s tenure are examples of the positive progress that he has seen to completion: transformation of his organization’s facility and bringing on new ownership.

Investing in the Region

Dr. Deveny and his leadership understood they must invest in the region to see growth in their own organization, and that mindset led Summa’s vision for the future. Their vision was grounded in the principles of population health management, focused on delivering better care and improving the overall health of the communities served. To pull that off, a facilities transformation plan — years in the making — finally took flight.

The plan represents an investment of up to $350 million in facility improvements at Summa’s Akron and Barberton campuses, with the goal to establish the healthcare provider as the leader in the greater Akron region.

Phase I of the plan targets an investment of $270 million over the next five years to begin extensive renovations at Summa Health’s Akron and Barberton facilities, including the landmark 343,000 square-foot patient tower recently opened.

A beautiful addition to the city’s skyline and a reminder of the continued rebirth and revitalization of the city, the 343,000 square-foot tower offers all private rooms, expanded surgical capabilities, 17 labor and delivery rooms and 36 customized mother and baby rooms. The Williams Center for Breast Health, supported by a $5 million donation from Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams in 2017, is a nearly 20,000 square-foot nurturing environment with 12 private exam rooms, advanced MRI imaging, 3D mammography in five exam rooms, as well as same-day surgical consultation for patients who have an area of concern on their diagnostic mammogram. Additionally, a multipurpose conference center on the ground floor will serve as a community resource for hosting global speakers, meetings, lectureships, symposia and clinical trainings.

Other highlights of the Summa facility transformation plan include:

  • Increasing the number of private patient rooms to approximately 80 percent of beds at Summa.
  • Adding a 50,000 square-foot medical office building on the Summa Health System – Akron Campus that will integrate new design concepts to promote a team-based model of care.
  • Providing increased outpatient capacity across the system, with the ability to design around patient-centered care.
  • Modernizing various portions of the Barberton Campus and aligning services there that will improve access to better meet the overall needs of the community. Center stage of these improvements: a new imaging and diagnostic center and enhancements to surgical services.

“The opening of our new patient tower truly marks a transformational moment in our more than 125-year history,” noted Dr. Deveny. “It is much more than just an investment in bricks and mortar. It’s an investment in the economy of the greater Akron region. It’s an investment in improving the overall health of the communities we serve through population health management. And, it’s an investment in the future of Summa Health.”

Creating Needed Stability

While locking down the future physical needs of his organization, Dr. Deveny, his board and his leadership team were concurrently at work on assuring the financial stability of Summa. The result of that work was a recently announced strategic partnership, one that will find Summa Health a wholly-owned subsidiary of Beaumont Health.

Beaumont Health is Michigan’s largest health care system with $4.7 billion in total annual net patient revenue and is most preferred for health care in Southeast Michigan, according to NRC Health survey data. The not-for-profit organization consists of eight hospitals with 3,429 beds, 145 outpatient sites, nearly 5,000 affiliated physicians and 38,000 employees.

“Our board believes Beaumont Health would position our leadership, physicians and employees for continued success and enhance the quality of care provided to our patients in Akron and Northeast Ohio,” said Dr. Deveny. “Before making this decision, we received partnership responses from multiple other health care systems in Michigan as well as several in Ohio and other states. Beaumont understands and supports our commitment to the communities we serve and will invest in our future growth in Ohio.”

The first step of the transaction was the signing of a Letter of Intent to develop a strategic partnership. The Letter of Intent signals the beginning of the process to draft definitive agreements to bring the two not-for-profit health systems together under Beaumont Health. The arrangement would allow for continued growth and expansion to serve patients better in Michigan and Ohio. Summa Health would maintain local leadership, including a local board.

“Beaumont Health and Summa Health are already strong and successful health care leaders. By welcoming Summa into the Beaumont family, both organizations will share expertise, invest in each other and continue to thrive as the industry evolves,” Beaumont Health CEO John Fox said.

This new arrangement will strengthen both organizations’ cost-effective approaches to partnering with communities in new ways to improve the quality of care and overall health. Summa and Beaumont officials note that the new partnership will not only strengthen their capabilities to continue to provide quality care within their own respective markets, but also expand and grow the range of services across Ohio and Michigan. Summa also does not expect any disruption or limitation of the services available to patients in the Akron region and, in fact, anticipates that through the Beaumont relationship, the number of local services available will increase over time.

Summa Health’s Medical Staff President, Hitesh Makkar, M.D., is anticipating positive benefits from the Beaumont deal. “Our struggles in 2017 have left our medical staff somewhat apprehensive, and I am hoping that the purchase will help bringing the physicians and the administration closer,” he said. “The medical staff has been assured that there will be stability and more resources will be available to grow the health system. If there is an infusion of new talented physicians to the area as a result of the Beaumont partnership, I would expect the care in this community would improve and that we will be adding more services locally, and as such, will keep our patients in this community without having to transfer to larger centers.”