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Robert Wood Johnson, Rutgers to create unique ACO

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Dr. Alfred Tallia, chair of the department of family medicine and community health at Rutgers - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, will be the executive director of a unique new ACO.
Dr. Alfred Tallia, chair of the department of family medicine and community health at Rutgers - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, will be the executive director of a unique new ACO.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Health System is collaborating with Rutgers University to create a Medicare accountable care organization that will be unique in New Jersey as it will involve academic researchers working with physicians.

The ACO, called Robert Wood Johnson Partners, plans to launch in January of 2014. Dr. Alfred Tallia, chair of the department of family medicine and community health at Rutgers - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, will be the executive director.

Created by the Affordable Care Act, Medicare ACOs reward hospitals and doctors that deliver high-quality, lower-cost health care by allowing them to share some of the money Medicare saves when healthcare is delivered more efficiently.

Medicare has approved nine ACOs so far across New Jersey, but unlike Robert Wood Johnson Partners, most revolve around a hospital system.

“This is really the state’s major research university working with one of the larger hospital health systems, and it has a promise to be an example of what Rutgers can accomplish statewide,” Tallia said.

The goal, Tallia said, is to “create for the state of New Jersey something that benefits patients first and foremost and brings all the strengths of a major research university to bear on the problem of healthcare.”

The plan is to launch the ACO with about 30 physicians and about 6,000 Medicare patients, then expand beyond Medicare.

 “We are going to very quickly look to do arrangements with commercial insurers as well, and that’s where the bulk of the patients will come from,” Tallia said.

Research collaborations with Rutgers have already begun, Tallia said.

For example, a project with the clinical psychology department of Rutgers is addressing “the whole issue of behavioral healthcare and how that is handled,” Tallia said. The project is co-locating behavioral health specialists within a primary care practice.

“The patients absolutely love it,” Tallia said.

He noted that there is an unfortunate stigma attached to seeing behavioral health professionals in their offices, but by co-locating them within the primary care practice “they get to see them while going to visit their family physician.”

 “That is another example of how the Rutgers connection has helped in training the workforce for the future of healthcare, which is really going to be about interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary collaborative care, bringing all the right resources to bear on the patient’s needs whatever they are,” Tallia said.

Tallia said he wants the ACO to study ways to empower patients to improve their health.
 
“None of these systems will work unless the patient is empowered to do the right thing, either with information or with incentives that promote behavior modification,” Tallia said. “How many people know they should exercise, but don’t? How many people know they need to diet better, but don’t for a whole variety of reasons? There are a lot of behavioral aspects of care; we need to figure out how best to engage the patient.”

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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