While several health care organizations in New Jersey are knee deep in a number of divided efforts to better coordinate patient care while lowering costs, Neptune-based Meridian Health is measuring the effectiveness of its strategies through a new system-wide structure that will nourish collaboration on projects across employee ranks and specialties.
"We've taken the interdisciplinary approach already, and we have about 80 percent of our staff in collaboration, but with the advent of health care reform, all of sudden we have to do more than just be comprehensive," Meridian President John K. Lloyd said. "We're really going to another level with this institute, because now we're going to spend a lot of time researching best practices, putting them into practice and evaluating what they do in improving quality and reducing cost."
Lloyd said the process of launching the Richard Hader Institute for Clinical Integration — named after the organization's senior vice president and chief nursing officer who has been at the helm of its coordinated care efforts — began nearly five years ago, when Meridian first dipped its toe into evidence-based care practices for separate medical disciplines, like physical therapy and nursing.
Since then, the health care system has commenced a palliative care demonstration project, a Medicare Advantage partnership with Geisinger Health Plan and an accountable-care organization that Lloyd hopes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will approve tomorrow.
"All of these initiatives over the last few years were designed to better prepare us to integrate care across a full continuum, but now the vision is to physically aggregate all of our resources in one location," Lloyd said. "The people we have working on the projects will become the group that sets the standard of care across Meridian, but also the group that integrates that care in a cost-effective and high-quality way."
To convey that those projects are embedded in Meridian's corporate structure, Lloyd said the institute will be located across the street from the organization's main offices in Neptune, in a building that will be completely renovated by March to house sufficient research space with the help of a $250,000 gift from the Mildred Rosa Charitable Trust.
"The most important thing is for us to share our expertise with each other as a team, because I think we sometimes focus in on our own disciplines too often, and we don't share enough information to make them even better," Hader said. "We can't just say anymore, 'Oh, this is a nursing thing' or 'This project is only for doctors,' because no matter what specialty you're trained in, we're all in this together now. The only contest we're in now is finding the best way to deliver the best care we can give to our patients."
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