(Camden, New Jersey) On Thursday, July 31, 2008, Cooper University Hospital and the Institute for Medication Access and Compliance (IMAAC) launched a new cost-effective approach to improving the health status of low-income, uninsured patients in New Jersey. The pilot program will focus on individuals with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic heart failure. The goal of the program is to improve patient health, while reducing the cost of uncompensated care in New Jersey.
“This is a great example of a public-private initiative that will support two key state priorities; to provide better access to health care for the uninsured and identify ways for the State and hospitals to save money and reduce spending,” said Heather Howard, New Jersey Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services.
“Emergency Departments around the county, including Cooper, are financially burdened by uninsured patients with chronic diseases. Many of these visits can be eliminated by providing proper programs to address the needs of these patients,” said John P. Sheridan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer at Cooper. “We believe this pilot will help us place many of those patients into programs that can address their health care issues and thereby avoid the very expensive life-saving care provided by our Emergency Department.”
The program at Cooper University Hospital is part of the broader New Jersey Medication Access Partnership (NJMAP) pilot. NJMAP is a major new initiative of the non-profit group IMAAC, supported by a number of organizations including Cooper, Hunterdon Medical Center, Novartis, MDAdvantage, AstraZeneca, Merck, Abbott, sanofi-aventis and Bristol-Myers-Squibb.
“The program will identify patients with chronic conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and asthma, who are ‘falling through the cracks’ of the healthcare system,” said Bill Shearer, IMAAC Board Member. “The program is unique because we will be providing health counseling through a focal point in the health system, the nurse-educator.”
“As a leader in providing access to medicines for the low-income uninsured across the country, we are delighted to play a pivotal role in this exciting program, said Kevin Rigby, Vice-President of Public Affairs at Novartis. “We believe that the pilot will demonstrate that the combination of streamlined access to prescribed medicines and patient education will help improve patient health while also reducing costs for the entire healthcare system.”
To expand the program beyond the pilot and have a larger impact throughout New Jersey, IMAAC is extending an invitation to corporations and foundations to join the current funders. “Additional support will help expand the model to other healthcare sites, making it possible to reach a greater number of uninsured patients across the state,” said Mr. Shearer. “We can improve health, even save lives, while decreasing the costs of uncompensated care.”
The NJMAP pilot program complements individual pharmaceutical company patient assistance programs (PAPs) by providing services specifically designed to assist outpatient facilities caring for large numbers of low-income uninsured patients. For example, the program offers participants the opportunity to fill out just one form to qualify for many of their medicines, regardless of the particular product manufacturer. In addition, a nurse educator will be available at the outpatient site to assist patients with any questions and encourage adherence to their medication regimen.
Approximately 1.2 million people in New Jersey lack healthcare insurance. The model is a whole-system approach to care for the uninsured and underinsured which focuses particularly on:
* Identifying patients with chronic health conditions that are not receiving consistent medical care.
* Providing health counseling through a nurse-educator.
* Educating patients on their disease state and the importance of medication therapy and lifestyle changes.
* Providing streamlined access to prescription medications. Screening for state and federal programs will be conducted first, followed by pharmaceutical company PAP access as a final safety net.
* Identifying a medical facility for the patient in a primary care setting, e.g., family health center, free clinic or private practice.
* Providing follow-up to assist with medication adherence.
The precursor to this model, the Hunterdon County Medication Access Partnership (HCMAP) has been operating successfully for three-years at the Hunterdon Medical Center, a rural hospital system in Hunterdon County, NJ. Not only have health outcomes been improved for patients enrolled in the program, but also, implementation of the nurse-educator model has resulted in a 30% reduction in emergency department use for the patients served.
The pilot is being funded and managed through the Institute for Medication Access and Compliance (IMAAC), a 501c3 dedicated to the improvement of the health status of the uninsured and underinsured poor in the U.S. through improvements in medication therapy processes. Funding will be broad-based and includes several pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies and other NJ corporations. Two hospitals are participating in the pilot: Cooper University Hospital (Camden) and Hunterdon Medical Center (Flemington).
An important goal of the pilot, which differentiates it from other medication access initiatives, is to measure the economic benefit of the model to the healthcare system, primarily through the reduction of the burden of uncompensated care. Rutgers Center for State Health Policy will be retained by IMAAC to assist in the measurement of the economic benefit.
“With total uncompensated care costs to New Jersey at an estimated $1.5 billion per year, a small percentage gain can have a major impact,” said Mr. Shearer.