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Managed Care Partners - Preparing for a 'radically different normal'

Managed Care Partners Winter 2012

Preparing for a 'radically different normal'

Date: January 3, 2012

John Colmers is helping guide Johns Hopkins through changes within its own system as well as changes in health care overall.

John M. Colmers, who joined Johns Hopkins Medicine earlier this year as vice president for health care transformation and strategic planning, says taking the position has been like coming home.

“I’m just thrilled to be here,” says the former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who received his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins in 1975. “I served on the board as a young trustee early in my career, so I got to see the complexity of the place.”

Colmers will support the executive leadership of Johns Hopkins Medicine in strategically positioning the expanding Johns Hopkins system to respond to health care reform and other short- and long-term market forces.

Since coming on board Feb. 14, Colmers has jumped in to spearhead a number of initiatives. He’s begun strategic planning in the national capital region with the chief executive officers and board members of new Hopkins members Sibley Memorial Hospital and Suburban Hospital; Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs and Clinical Practice Association President William Baumgartner; and Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System President Ronald Peterson, helping identify priorities in the region and analyzing strategic clinical areas. He expects to have a specific plan outlined by early 2012.

Colmers also worked with Johns Hopkins HealthCare President Patricia Brown, the vice deans and other faculty leaders to develop a series of guiding principles for health care transformation.

“These touchstones need to consider financial and other challenges associated with health care reform as a whole, not simply what might happen if and when the Accountable Care Act is implemented,” Colmers says, including a greater demand for transparency, financial pressures, need for investments in capital and IT, additional pressures on the workforce, and more need for services. “Much of what we need to be doing is to prepare ourselves for a radically different normal.”

Additionally, Colmers is preparing to work on a strategic plan for Johns Hopkins Medicine overall that started at October’s annual leadership retreat.

As secretary of DHMH, Colmers led a $9 billion agency responsible for protecting, promoting and improving the health and well-being of Marylanders through a broad spectrum of programs including Medicaid, public health, behavioral health, state health facilities and regulatory oversight. Under his leadership, Medicaid coverage was expanded to more than 200,000 parents and children, substance abuse services expanded to 33,000 low-income adults, dental services to low-income children improved, and the Clean Indoor Air Act was enacted, among other achievements.

Before joining DHMH, Colmers was senior program officer for the Milbank Memorial Fund, a New York-based, endowed national foundation providing nonpartisan analysis, study, research and communication on significant health policy issues.

“John brings a unique set of skill and beliefs to Johns Hopkins Medicine,” says Peterson, also executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “His vast expertise in health care policy issues and strategic planning is coupled with a strong, humanistic belief in helping all Marylanders and others receive the best possible health care. This has been the guiding principal of Johns Hopkins for more than a century, so we believe that John is a perfect fit in terms of our strategic needs as well as our mission and vision.”

If Colmers’ Hopkins work isn’t enough to keep him busy, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed him chair of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, where Colmers previously had served as executive director. Colmers says his principal goals are to ensure the rates are reasonable, and that costs of care are realistic and set fairly.

“Ultimately, I hope that through the Medicare waiver we can begin to implement payment reforms leading to better outcomes for patients, not just on individual admission but over the course of illness, and over populations,” he says. “I also want to encourage greater clinical integration across systems.”