A new public-private partnership between the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden board of governors and Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Princeton aims to create a better care model for patients with Alzheimer’s — a disease that adversely affects a significant portion of Camden’s residents.
Being touted as the first of the kind in the nation, the new program is based off a model Otsuka used for oncology with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The results of the program were revealed in a report from Otsuka released Tuesday during the announcement of the new project in Camden.
The partnership is focused on a new “navigator” program, in which care coordinators are trained to following through on patient care. These new certified positions have been trademarked Alzheimer’s Journey Coordinators.
A similar concept in Alabama “cut rates of hospitalization from 36 percent to 16 percent, which reduced average annual costs by as much as $27,000 per patient,” according to the Otsuka report.
Noting that the Rowan/Rutgers board is focused on “eds and meds” in the Camden and South Jersey region, Otsuka is proposing that the new program can help train local residents, and, “At this important moment in the region’s history, such a program could become part of the turnaround story.”
The area is of particular interest because of its demographics.
Kris Kolluri, CEO of the Rowan/Rutgers board, said the statistics show a higher likelihood of Alzheimer’s in the area.
“When you look at the statistics, minorities, both African-Americans and Hispanics, are at greater risk for getting Alzheimer’s, so we see there is a need from that standpoint,” Kolluri said. “But equally important, Camden also has an opportunity to train health care workers.”
The focus on eds and meds has led to a strong growth in industry employers in the region; they are the second-largest employers, Kolluri said.
“Forty percent of people that work in the Camden metropolitan area work in eds and meds,” Kolluri said.
The impact of the program has real dollars attached to it, both in revenue and investment potential.
The implementation of the journey coordinators could result in as much as $150,000 in revenue per coordinator for a hospital, according to the report, which cited a 2013 Harvard Business Review article on MetroHealth in Cleveland.
With regard to investment, Otsuka’s report states: “There is also evidence from the academic literature that Patient Navigation and Coordinators programs can help recruit for clinical trials. Given the monumental barriers that drug development faces when recruiting for Alzheimer’s trials, the Alzheimer’s Journey Coordinator Certificate Program in Camden could become a magnet for pharmaceutical interest.”
Eli Perez, director of congress and stakeholder management at Otsuka, said the Princeton-based unit of the Japanese pharmaceutical company can focus on its mission of serving an unmet need, and, while bending the cost curve, also focus on a new treatment.
“In the future, hope we can say we are able to introduce medication where there hasn’t been one introduced in more than a decade. We are a little bit away from that,” Perez said, citing setbacks in its current compounding research efforts.
Meanwhile, caregivers and family members of Alzheimer’s patients are often left to navigate “a very complex, fragmented health care system,” Perez said. The goal is for Otsuka to identify a better model of care in partnership with Rowan/Rutgers.