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Dome - A new prescription for strategic alliances

May 2011

A new prescription for strategic alliances

Date: May 20, 2011

Mark Shaver and his business development team secure corporate partnerships for Hopkins’ expertise and evidence-based programs.

Mark Shaver
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Mark Shaver helps develop business arrangements between Johns Hopkins Medicine and such private industry partners as Walgreens.
photo by Keith Weller

When customers seek treatment at one of Walgreens’ Take Care clinics, they’ll soon connect with a new initiative of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Thanks to a recently signed agreement, Hopkins experts will begin reviewing treatment protocols used in the roughly 400 Take Care clinics situated in certain Walgreens stores throughout the nation. In addition, they will look over protocols for on-site employee health clinics that Walgreens manages for such companies as Disney and Toyota. They will also provide education for the company’s health care professionals.

“We’re taking the Walgreens delivery system and integrating our knowledge to improve the care and training they provide,” says Mark Shaver, senior director of business development and strategic alliances at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “They will use our intellectual assets to help produce better outcomes with their products and programs.”

The Walgreens partnership adds a compelling twist to a lesser known chapter in Hopkins’ institutional story, one that deals with marketing Hopkins know-how and innovative care delivery systems.

According to Hopkins Medicine CFO Rich Grossi, the newly created business development team, headed by Shaver and executive medical director Fred Brancati, will develop partnerships with private industry to expand the reach of Hopkins’ expertise while also creating new sources of revenue for the institution.

“It’s important to remember that we’re not doing this just because we want to get into different businesses,” he says. “The intent is always to strengthen the organization and support its mission.”

Brancati, who heads the Division of General Internal Medicine, says Hopkins will provide Walgreens “with an independent point of view that will keep them up to date and in line with Hopkins’ standards of care.”

It will also supply education courses for the approximately 30,000 health care professionals—mostly pharmacists—who work for the company.

The initial three-year contract will be managed by Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions, a new division of Johns Hopkins HealthCare designed to oversee see such partnerships.

Home-grown innovations

Shaver and Grossi hope that the business development team can persuade faculty members to market their ideas about how to improve health care.

They point to Clinically Home, a new program based on the work of geriatrician Bruce Leff of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. His innovative model, Hospital at Home, garnered international recognition for its success at bringing hospital-level care into the homes of elderly patients. Because the program uses physicians to make home visits, however, it was deemed too difficult to work as a business plan because of the shortage of primary care physicians and geriatricians.

Instead Leff worked with industry partners to develop another protocol-based approach using a centralized physician call center, in-home technology and nurses or nurse practitioners to make home visits as needed. Investors funded a pilot study at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Chicago that confirmed Leff’s earlier data: better or equal clinical outcome, greater patient satisfaction and lower cost.

Grossi believes many medical centers are eager to purchase and implement evidence-based programs that meet the standards and requirements of health care reform.

“Clinically Home is attracting hospitals that know they have to make these changes, but also know that if they do it themselves, it will cost a ton and they’re not sure they would do it correctly,” he says.

A record of success

Hopkins has provided consulting and program management for private business partners for many years. Current long-term consulting agreements with Healthways and Resolution Health, for instance, help these companies enhance the quality and cost effectiveness of the services they deliver.

JHM’s commercial consumer health information program develops and licenses faculty-approved Hopkins-branded health information to health-related websites. The program began in 1996 when Hopkins partnered with Aetna U.S. Healthcare in InteliHealth, a consumer website sometimes referred to as “the WebMD of the ‘90s.”

Hopkins faculty from the schools of medicine, nursing and public health provided and reviewed material for the site until 2000, when majority stakeholder Aetna decided to use InteliHealth as a component of its own insurance market. At that point, Hopkins decided to part ways, Grossi says, and crafted a settlement. In exchange for its 5 percent share of InteliHealth, Hopkins received $30 million.

The money benefited the schools of nursing and public health as well as the school of medicine. “As a single deal, it probably paid higher than any other we’ve ever done,” Grossi says.

Some current business arrangements have a much greater equity stake. For instance, Hopkins owns 25 percent of Sleep Services of America, a company offering diagnostic services for sleep disorders that operates in seven states. (G.E. Healthcare holds the majority interest.) 

And Hopkins just signed an agreement to become a 49 percent shareholder in a business arrangement with Harris Corporation, an international communications equipment company. Jonathan Lewin, director of radiology, initiated the partnership to create a repository and archiving system to manage medical images

Addressing conflict of interest concerns 

Brancati says part of his charge is to serve as a “spiritual guide” in developing new partnerships.

“We want to be 110 percent sure that each arrangement is meeting the institutional mission and that we don’t go off course,” he says. “None of us came to Hopkins specifically to interact with for-profits. But we should work with willing partners to improve public health where our missions overlap.

“Walgreens, for instance, is interested in keeping people healthy and out of the hospital. If they can help people to manage chronic disease better, they stand to make money. And if we aid in that process, we not only improve population health but also share in the health care savings in a way that supports our mission.”

Such partnerships also bring opportunities for population research. As part of the Walgreens agreement, Brancati will lead a group of Hopkins faculty in devising studies that make use of Walgreens’ vast infrastructure, including the health care professionals in its pharmacies and in its retail and employer-based clinics.

Not only does the company have stores within five miles of 70 percent of the American population, according to Shaver, but roughly 40 percent of the patients who use its clinics do not have primary care doctors.

“No one has ever done outcomes research to see what the pros, cons and cost savings are for this kind of retail clinic,” he says.

A call for new ideas

The new office wants to invite all faculty, staff and students who have ideas on ways to improve health care to contact the new development team. From Practice to Market, a public meeting to describe underway projects and to answer questions is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. on June 2 in Hurd Hall. Speakers include Brancati, Shaver, Leff and Mike Weisfeldt, director of the Department of Medicine.

“In addition to new business relationships, we’re trying to unearth other potential ideas and innovative approaches to health care,” Shaver says.

He mentions the work of Ed Bernacki, the director of Hopkins Division of Occupational Medicine who developed on-site employee health and wellness centers that now number 50 clinics in 18 states. These programs, combined with income from the physician’s consulting work for casualty insurance companies, generate $10 million annually for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The income that Hopkins receives from Bernacki’s business, as well as from contracts such as Walgreens, flows directly to the school of medicine. It is then distributed to participating faculty members’ departments and allocated as those departments deem necessary.

Shaver says his team will also help non-faculty members develop business plans and identify “faculty champions” who can provide them with the knowledge and expertise they need to launch the business. His office can also advise about potential funding sources and overall business strategy.

For information and details, contact:, 

Linell Smith

Here are some ongoing business arrangements between Johns Hopkins Medicine and private partners.

• Healthways—faculty consulting for international well-being and disease management company

• Resolution Health—faculty consulting for Wellpoint company specializing in personalized health messages to members

• The HealthCentral Network—global Web portal that provides resources and tools to help consumers live healthier lives, including the JHM-developed Mood24/7, an innovative method for patients to track their mood via cell phone

• Unbound Medicine—digital publisher of clinical resources; official site and publisher of the JHM-developed POC-IT Guides, clinical decision support tools that are Web-based and downloadable as mobile apps for use at the point of care