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New $8.7 milion national center to focus on complex patients

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | March 17, 2016
Business Affairs Population Health Primary Care
Since 2002, the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers in New Jersey has taken a holistic approach to health care by addressing patients’ medical and non-medical needs, including homelessness and hunger, with mix of nursing, social work, psychological care and even housing. The organization recently received $8.7 million from three major organizations to establish a national center that will link similar models of care for high-need patients around the country.

The center, established with contributions from the AARP, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will help professionals in the field share ideas, data, and best practices and help move these new models of care forward, said Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, executive director of the Camden Coalition.

“There are models scattered around health care that we’ve never really linked together,” Brenner told HCB News. “It’s like the early stage of the HIV movement or the early stage of the cancer movement.”

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The Camden Coalition’s program focuses on providing social and psychological support to promote good health care outcomes and reduce drivers of unnecessary spending. This includes a pilot project that provides housing for 50 formerly homeless patients. The organization also runs a training program, in its third year, that has medical and nursing students, as well as those in the public health or pharmacy fields, take a team-based approach to working with complex patients.

Brenner launched the coalition 13 years ago after learning that 20 percent of patients accounted for 80 percent of hospital costs in the New Jersey city, located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

“To better address the needs of complex patients, we need to build bridges between public health, health care, and social service agencies,” said Susan Mende, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a statement. “Ensuring that every American receives the medical and social support they need is critical to building a Culture of Health.”

Brenner said that while research in the field is still in its infancy, he and his colleagues have picked up on common themes to help target interventions. For example, early childhood trauma has emerged as a predictor of patients who heavily utilize health care services, Brenner said.

“We’re just beginning to get our hands around what you do to address these issues,” Brenner said.

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