Princeton, N.J.—Improving patient care while keeping costs low is ever more challenging given the growing shortage of doctors and nurses and the expected increase in insured patients seeking primary care under the Affordable Care Act. Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced $1.9 million in Primary Care Workforce Innovations grants through its New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI) program to explore new ways to reorganize the current staffing in physician’s offices and clinics in ways that will meet both objectives.
“The current and growing shortage of primary care providers, especially physicians and nurses, underscores the need to redesign the way primary care is organized and delivered in all types of settings,” says Bob Atkins, NJHI director. NJHI is a statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reinforcing the Foundation’s commitment to improving health and health care in its home state.
Seven primary care practices in New Jersey were each awarded up to $150,000 to re-engineer the work of their existing medical and office staff and participate in a learning network to capture and share their evidence and best practices over the next two years. Ranging from federally-qualified health centers in Trenton, Jersey City, Perth Amboy, and Dover, to private or hospital-owned family practices in New Brunswick, Lambertville, and Edison, their patients encompass all ages and economic circumstances. (See the list of grantee organizations below.)
“More than 70 percent of our patients have chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, but early identification reduces the chance of serious complications,” explains Scott Carey, Chief Operating Officer of Metropolitan Family Health Network (MFHN) in Jersey City. “We will use this grant to enhance the role of our medical assistants, who already spend a lot of time developing good relationships with our patients. With new training, the medical assistants will be able to conduct earlier screening for chronic conditions so our care teams can work to improve patients’ health with earlier diagnosis and treatment.”
“Whether through cross-training to increase staff skills to provide the widest range of patient services, or more efficient teamwork, or using technology such as electronic medical records,” Atkins continues, “these medical offices are committed to implementing creative workforce models to improve their patients’ experience, satisfaction, and outcomes while keeping costs as low as possible.”
In addition to grants to the medical practices participating in the NJHI Primary Care Workforce Innovations program, RWJF awarded $800,000 to Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc. (HQSI), the federally designated Quality Improvement Organization for New Jersey. HQSI will conduct extensive site visits at each office, customize and monitor their staff redesign plans for continued course improvement, and convene the grantees multiple times in person as well as online for shared learning.
“Given the need to control health care costs without sacrificing quality, redesigning the roles and responsibilities of the current workforce may be the best solution to providing cost-effective, high quality health care in New Jersey and throughout the United States,” says James Marks, MD, senior vice president and director, Health Group, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We see this program as a critical opportunity to try innovative new approaches in the primary care setting right here in our own backyard and evaluate their success.”
New Jersey organizations receiving Primary Care Workforce Innovations grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
- Henry J. Austin Health Center, Trenton
- Metropolitan Family Health Network, Inc., Jersey City
- Hunterdon Healthcare System, Lambertville and Milford
- Jewish Renaissance Medical Center, Perth Amboy
- John F. Kennedy Medical Center Foundation, Edison
- Rutgers University Foundation, New Brunswick
- Zufall Health Center, Dover
- Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc., East Brunswick