NEW BRUNSWICK – Five years after it had no presence in health care, a revamped Rutgers unveiled a plan Wednesday that its academic leadership believes “leapfrogs” the state university of New Jersey to the front of a patient-first system of care.
The university’s Board of Governors approved the creation of Rutgers Health, a new clinical branch that officials say will be unique as an academic health care provider organization because of its multiprofessional integration of physicians, physician’s assistants, nurses, dentists and more.
Rutgers Health will unite 1,000 faculty members at 12 units, including the New Jersey Medical School, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers Cancer Institute and Rutgers’ schools of pharmacy, psychology, dental medicine, nursing, social work and behavioral health care.
“We are putting all of our clinical care providers in a single entity,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi told media members, “because the future of health care is a team-based approach.”
The establishment of Rutgers Health – the policy brand – is the first move in a three-step multiyear implementation process.
Rutgers Health Group will be the subsidiary nonprofit corporation that functions as the statewide faculty practice, and Rutgers Health Network eventually will encompass affiliated hospitals and community care centers under the umbrella across the state, including the RWJ Barnabas merged entity created last week.
“What Rutgers Health brings to the RWJ Barnabas system,” Barchi said, “is the pipeline of research from bench to bedside.”
This new approach reflects a national trend powered by the Affordable Care Act, in which health care institutions benefit from keeping people healthy rather than treating the sick.
“This will give us the ability to give a kind of medical care that hasn’t been available in the state of New Jersey before,” said Brian Strom, executive vice president for health affairs and chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, which was created in 2013.
“First and foremost, Rutgers Health will be about patients,” Strom said. “Ultimately, all Rutgers Health locations will represent a place patients can go to receive all of their care – to get well and to stay well. Physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, social workers, clinical psychologists and researchers will work together, creating a leading academic health care provider organization distinguished by the quality and breadth of patient services.”
“It will end up with the state university being dramatically stronger academically in terms of training and keeping our graduates in New Jersey,” he added. “The net result of this multi-year process will be a healthy New Jersey. That is the goal. This is the structure to achieve that.”
Barchi and Strom described the formation of Rutgers Health as “faculty driven” and said it is the product of 18 months of negotiations. Wednesday’s launch falls within the year-long 250th anniversary celebration of Rutgers as “revolutionary.”
“This is a hugely significant movement,” Board chair Greg Brown said at the meeting conducted in Winants Hall. “This is a big move for Rutgers.”
What separates Rutgers Health from other medical school plans – including the one that formerly existed at UMDNJ – or smaller health-care provider groups in New Jersey is the anticipated coordination of the larger range of different specialties available.
“The goal here is to shift the focus to the patient, both keeping them healthy and organizing in a way that meets the need of people,” Strom said. “The advantage Rutgers has is we produce them all. We can take our trainees and place them in the right places to give the proper population care.”
Rutgers Health will offer many benefits to patients, officials said. With a multidisciplinary teams of care providers,the number of patient admissions will be minimized and paperwork reduced, thereby eliminating duplication of services and preventing medical errors. Rutgers Health also will leverage its statewide presence by negotiating with vendors to gain other cost efficiencies for patients.
Rutgers’ clinical practices accommodate more than 1.7 million patient visits per year, according to the school.
Faculty at the New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School will be more closely engaged and will find it easier to work together.
“All of us realize that this is an inevitable necessity,” Barchi said. “The way we did business 10 years ago is not the way we will be doing business 10 years from now. To not change is to be left behind. In this case, we have a remarkable consensus that change is needed.”
Barchi described the cost incurred of the creation as “minimal” for an entity the size of Rutgers.
Without an integrated clinical entity, Rutgers was likely to lose tens of millions of dollars in reimbursement from medical insurers under the new health care model, Barchi said.
“If we succeed in doing this, we can gain the value-based reimbursements and become leaders in the field,” Barchi said. “And you are talking about swings in the other direction. The cost of not doing this is huge. The opportunity of doing this right is also huge.”