The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers is an nine-year old strategic initiative with a mission to improve the quality, capacity, and accessibility of the healthcare system for vulnerable populations in the City of Camden
The Camden ‘Health provider breakfast group’
In 2002, a small group of Camden primary care providers began meeting over breakfast at Rutgers-Camden to discuss issues they faced while practicing in the city. Meeting every few months, it was largely an open forum and a welcome opportunity for these providers to share experiences, struggles, as well as frustrations. They quickly found that barriers or problems any one practice experienced were received with a lot of head nodding — they were common and familiar to all. Steadily, the meetings grew in number and drew a diverse group of interested participants that have included family physicians, internists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, school nurses, health services organizations, physician assistants, a midwife, and podiatrists from across the city, serving in a variety of settings. Over time, it was decided that the group would be better served if it formalized its structure and purpose. It formed a planning Board, drafted by-laws, and planned specific discussion topics for each meeting and invited various speakers, from local specialists to health administrators at the county and state levels. The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers is an independent non-profit organization and is incorporated in the State of New Jersey.
Improving healthcare delivery in Camden
Over the past nine years, the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (or “the Coalition”) has become community organizers of the Camden health provider arena. Frequently in large, urban environments across the country, healthcare delivery is fragmented, episodic, uncoordinated, and extremely inefficient. Often, several hospitals and health systems exist in the same city, but do not communicate and the flow of information across systems does not exist. After working for several years to gain access to hospital claims data all three Camden health systems (Cooper University Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, and Virtua Health), the Coalition — together with Camconnect — compiled a comprehensive database to analyze and quantify the utilization of the hospitals by Camden residents. Using discrete patient level claims data, it was found that in one year, nearly half of the city’s residents visited an city Emergency Department or hospital, a single patient visited every city ED/hospital a total of 113 times, and the most common diagnoses for visits were head colds, viral infections, ear infections, and sore throats. In Camden, 80% of the costs were spent on 13% of the patients, and 90% of the costs were spent on 20% of the patients. The total cost for hospital and ED care in Camden over five years was $650 million, mostly public funds.
The Coalition spent its first five years almost solely on building relationships across the Camden healthcare provider community — from community-based private practices to front line hospital staff to social workers across the city. Using those relationships and guided by the Camden Health Database to inform and evaluate, we currently operate several health project initiatives to demonstrate a collaborative approach to improving care delivery and patient outcomes. It is intended that the program models created can be replicated and implemented in other cities across New Jersey and the country to result in improved patient care and reduced costs. The Coalition has expanded its partner base and has also built relationships with executive leadership of the hospitals, social service/public health agencies, state government agencies, leaders at the statewide Medicaid health plans, and policymakers to advocate and build legislation to sustain this modern day approach of healthcare delivery.