Michael D'Agnes knew he had a problem with diabetes. As the CEO of Raritan Bay Medical Center, he knew first-hand that the disease continually topped the list whenever the Perth Amboy-based hospital did a community needs assessment.
And he knew his center did not have the resources to address the issue on its own. So he found an organization that did.
Earlier this month, Raritan Bay became the third New Jersey hospital to affiliate with the Boston-based Joslin Diabetes Center, a leading diabetes treatment and research organization.
D'Agnes said the affiliation brings to the Raritan Bay community a world-class diabetes program that puts as much emphasis on the education and counseling of the diabetic as it does on providing clinical care.
"I wasn't comfortable that we had a full-scope program of services," he said. "I felt the best way to do it was with a well-known brand and an accomplished partner."
D'Agnes said Joslin provides policies and procedures, from screening through comprehensive care.
"And they have the people, the physicians, the dieticians, the nurses that can work with our people so that they can augment the skills that we have and raise the level of service and professionalism," he said.
The goal, he said, "is to really move faster and begin to deal with diabetes in a much more efficient way."
Raritan Bay will send people to Boston for training, and Joslin will send staff to Raritan Bay on a quarterly basis.
"(They will) monitor our center, take a look at our statistics and our outcomes and make sure we are in sync with the kinds of outcomes they expect from a Joslin center," D'Agnes said.
Joslin has affiliations with AtlantiCare in Atlantic County and with Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Burlington County.
Dr. Jenine Vecchio, the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center at Deborah Heart and Lung Hospital, said their partnership with Joslin — which was launched in early 2011 — has been invaluable.
Vecchio said the Joslin focus on the education of the patient is a key differentiator.
"Education is key to treating someone with diabetes, and that's what we have," she said.
What they have is a new reputation.
"They hear the Joslin name and they know what it means," she said.
That name recognition is important.
D'Agnes said the affiliation required an upfront investment by Raritan Bay, though studies show the return on investment will be strong.
"Our forecast indicates (the investment) will be returned multiple times," he said. "We think this gives us an opportunity to reach out to an awful lot of potential patients in the counties north of Monmouth County."
Ultimately, D'Agnes said the affiliation is a money-saver for everyone since diabetes often leads to kidney and heart disease.
"Just think of the potential savings if we can avoid the progression of disease that comes as a result of either undiagnosed or untreated diabetes," D'Agnes said. "This is one of those things that hopefully we will look back in five years or so, and we'll see that we really have made an impact on patient quality of life, patient outcomes and on cost as well."