The Family Business
By Patrick Smith
While faculty and staff members at Johns Hopkins engage in the cutting-edge research that often leads to improved medical care, an unsung group is working equally hard to promote their clinical innovations in the health care and corporate marketplace.
Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions, a business division within Johns Hopkins HealthCare, identifies and offers innovative products and programs crafted from the knowledge and experience of faculty and staff members from the schools of medicine, public health and nursing. Located in a waterfront office building in Fell’s Point, the 17-member group comprises business development and health care practice experts. It is supported by faculty members who serve as medical and business advisers.
“The HealthCare Solutions division was created to assist faculty members in getting innovations into the marketplace in response to the ‘triple aim’ reform goals of better health, better care and better costs,” says Patricia Brown, president of Johns Hopkins HealthCare. “In addition, it’s important that Johns Hopkins Medicine has a mechanism to generate nontraditional revenue, which ultimately goes back to the institution to support its mission.”
Last year, the group distributed $6 million to faculty members and departments across the schools from revenue generated by providing its industry clients a range of Johns Hopkins’ consulting services and programs. One prime example is the onsite clinic recently opened at Coastal Sunbelt Produce. Located in Laurel, Maryland, Coastal Sunbelt ships fresh produce to supermarkets and restaurants across the Baltimore/Washington region.
Building on the expertise of Ed Bernacki, director of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Johns Hopkins began opening and managing workplace clinics at Pepsi bottling facilities throughout the mid-Atlantic region in 1995. Since then, Johns Hopkins Onsite Employee Health and Wellness Centers have grown to include 55 clinics in 26 states, recently adding food processing giant Nestle, and GE Aviation, provider of commercial and military jet engines and components.
Coastal Sunbelt employs nearly 1,000 people, including truck drivers, dispatchers, packers and handlers, all of whom have access to the new Johns Hopkins-run clinic. Centrally located in the huge food distribution center, it is staffed full time by Johns Hopkins nurse practitioner Darcey Bland and provides routine and urgent care, onsite prescribing, preventive care and ongoing employee wellness programs.
“Employers lose productivity and money when staff members lose time to medical appointments and sick leave,” says Mark Cochran, executive director of HealthCare Solutions. “Our onsite clinics mean less time traveling to appointments, lower out-of-pocket costs and less time away from work. That’s popular with both management and the workforce.”
He says the clinics provide clients a healthy return on their investments, in most cases.
“For every dollar our clients spend on our onsite clinic solutions, they save about three. That’s a threefold return on their health care investment,” he says. Over the past 21 years, Cochran says, the onsite clinic business has saved its clients tens of millions of dollars.
Turning Innovations into Solutions
In addition to setting up workplace clinics, HealthCare Solutions handles a variety of Johns Hopkins-developed products, such as Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work, a health care benefit program that supports employees and their managers; the coach-based weight loss program Innergy; and Caring for the Caregiver, a hospital program to support those experiencing trauma from patient care.
These products exemplify the group’s mission: bringing faculty “best practices” to wider audiences. The Johns Hopkins Frailty Assessment Calculator, for instance, allows a clinician to enter five standardized measurements, such as low grip strength and unintentional weight loss, to arrive at a score that shows which patients are at highest risk for disability, falls and poor outcomes. The online tool was created by geriatrician Jeremy Walston and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
A home-based behavioral therapy program for children with motor stereotypy, a movement disorder characterized by purposeless body, arm or hand movements, was created by neurologist Harvey Singer and psychologist Richard Waranch. The approach to this relatively rare condition has been shown to reduce the severity of uncontrollable movements for children ages 7 to 17. Singer and Waranch produced a 45-minute training video, and the HealthCare Solutions team developed a marketing strategy to make it and the accompanying instruction sheet accessible to parents and providers.
HealthCare Solutions also provides health care administration products, such as a due diligence assessment guide and a blueprint for developing business plans that helps hospital leadership determine how to allocate resources for their institutions.
One of the newest offerings is the employee health program DECIDE (Decision-Making Education for Choices in Diabetes Everyday). Developed by Felicia Hill-Briggs, a Johns Hopkins population health expert and board member of the American Diabetes Association, DECIDE is a self-paced curriculum that helps its users develop strategies to better control their diabetes and its resulting complications. The online program includes regular communication between care providers and users, access to online videos and workbooks, and tips on healthy eating and exercise.
Turning Data into Savings
One of the most successful components in the HealthCare Solutions portfolio is Johns Hopkins ACG System, an approach to population health based on the research of the late Barbara Starfield, a physician-scientist in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. It has been nurtured and expanded by the system’s co-developer, Jonathan Weiner, a professor of health and policy management at the school of public health.
Over the last few decades, the ACG System has become one of the world’s most widely used population health analysis and management tools. It enables health systems, health plans, governments and, more recently, large companies to use patient and health care data to target areas where costs can be controlled.
One area in particular, says Cochran, concerns rising costs in employee insurance benefits. Among the users of the analytics package are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.