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Rutgers, Duke, Horizon form education partnership for nurses

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Horizon Healthcare Innovations announced Wednesday the formation of an educational partnership with Duke University School of Nursing and Rutgers University College of Nursing for a new type of training for nurses.

The 12-week course, which involves face-to-face and online sessions, trains nurses to become population-care coordinators, the cornerstone of patient-centered medical homes.

Dr. Richard Popiel, president and chief operating officer of HHI, an offshoot of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, said the training is to help nurses change the economic model of practices from the number of patient visits to results-based patient care.

“The whole concept around patient-centered medical home changed from a fee-for-service, volume-oriented way of engaging patients to a value-orientation,” Popiel said. “Team-based care, patient-centered care, infrastructure to support better comprehensive care and an orientation toward population management — the way they can do that is to have somebody focused on population management.”

The nurses going through the program, whether as continuing education credits or part of an advanced nursing degree, will focus on skills involving case management, using databases, coordinating care for people who are often admitted to and discharged from care facilities, and understanding the operations of a PCMH.

“What we felt was crucial, because this is a different and new role for nurses … that we have to train the nurses in a way in which they are best positioned to succeed in these roles,” Popiel said. “We could do that internally here, and to some extent we did at the beginning … but we really felt the best way to do that is to go to where the best training occurs, which is at academic institutions like Rutgers and Duke.”

Popiel said the investment in the training program is an “informed risk worth taking,” as the HHI PCMHs are just beginning to return results from their first year of operation. He added that a long-term investment has not been analyzed yet, as the first 37 nurses enrolled are currently halfway through the program.

“The patient-centered medical homes, the concept, will not translate into success unless you have the critical building blocks or foundational elements that set you up for success, and the population-care coordinator is one of those critical foundations,” Popiel said.

The partnership hopes to train at least 200 nurses in the next two years to fill the population-care coordinator roles at primary physician practices participating in a PCMH program. Popiel said Rutgers and Duke already had a relationship on various other projects, and both schools came highly recommended as partners for the project.

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