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Spring/Summer 2011

A New Prescription for Partnerships

Look for Hopkins know-how in a drugstore near you

By: Linell Smith
Date: May 20, 2011

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 350 Take Care clinics situated in certain Walgreens stores throughout the nation. In addition, they will look over protocols for on-site employee health centers that Walgreens manages for such companies as Disney and Toyota. They will also provide education for the company’s approximately 30,000 health care professionals—mostly pharmacists.

 “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.

The newly created business development team, headed by Shaver and executive medical director Fred Brancati, aims to develop partnerships with private industry to expand the reach of Hopkins’ expertise while also creating new sources of revenue for the institution, says Hopkins Medicine CFO Rich Grossi. “It’s important to remember that we’re not doing this just because we want to get into different businesses,” Grossi says. “The intent is always to strengthen the organization and support its mission.”

Grossi and Shaver 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. 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 who 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.

Brancati says that 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.”

He notes that 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,” Shaver says.

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