Feds to fund a ‘Dr. Hotspot’ program in Allentown - The Morning Call
June 18, 2012 | The Morning Call | Link to article
Dr. Jeffrey Brenner developed a national reputation for crunching hospital data to find the sickest people in a community, flooding them with health care and social services and wrenching out huge savings in fewer emergency room visits, reduced hospital admissions and less ill health.
Brenner, nicknamed "Dr. Hotspot" for targeting the sickest 1 percent - who consumed 30 percent of health care spending in his hometown of Camden, N.J. - visited Allentown last year to promote his data-driven, collaborative methods.
Now, Dr. Hotspot, or at least his model, is coming here to stay.
Allentown community health officials learned Friday they will share in a $14.3 million federal innovation grant to operate a similar program here for at least the next three years.
"We're really thrilled," said Joshua Chisholm, director of Congregations United for Neighborhood Action. "To have something that really has some muscle to it - this is not a duct-tape pilot project - it's really exciting."
Dr. Abby Letcher of the Lehigh Valley Health Network said the grant is a "real game-changer" because it will make possible a partnership among community groups, including the Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley, the Community Exchange, the Parish Nurse Coalition and Congregations United. That's the kind of cross-collaboration Brenner has said is essential to making the hot-spot method work.
From seven to 10 people will be hired at the health centers and Congregations United for Neighborhood Action with Allentown's share of the funds, Letcher said. Also sharing in the grant are Aurora, Colo.; Kansas City, Mo.; and San Diego.
One of the new positions will have someone collecting admissions and health data from area hospitals, Letcher said. Data are key to understanding how the community health providers should adjust to the community needs, she said.
"No matter how good our intentions are, until you change, you'll keep doing the same thing and that's not working," Letcher said.
Once the data are analyzed, workers will identify low-income people who frequently use local emergency rooms for primary health care, said Lissette Lahoz, executive director of the health centers. Often, these are people who suffer from complicated chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension, but who don't have regular access to a primary care doctor.
A team of doctors, social workers and case managers then work with the individual to get care and manage their diseases so that they head off more serious and costly problems.
The plan is to help people beyond their immediate health care problems, since an individual's health often interconnects with other issues. Teams may be called on to help patients fill prescriptions, find housing, apply for health coverage or disability benefits, handle legal issues and find transportation, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which announced the awards.
Improving health while saving money is the overall goal of the grant program in the four cities, which is being coordinated through the Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy. According to CMS, the programs are estimating that the $14 million investment will create more than 40 jobs and save $67.7 million.
Five other programs involving other communities in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and surrounding areas also were awarded grants.
The grants are provided under the Affordable Care Act, which in two rounds of funding allocated money for 107 projects to deliver health care services and save an estimated $1.9 billion over three years.