An Innovative New Jersey Partnership Is Producing the Science to Drive Health Care Forward
New Jersey’s Greatest in Health, Joining Forces
By Thomas Vincz, Public Relations Manager
New Jersey’s premier academic research institution, Rutgers University, and its leading health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ), have teamed up to create one of the state’s most powerful medical research partnerships.
RBHS Chancellor Brian L. Strom, M.D., M.P.H.
While the two organizations have engaged in collaborative research for over a decade, the work was intermittent. That all changed two years ago when Dr. Brian Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), and Allen Karp, Executive Vice President for Health Care Management and Transformation for Horizon BCBSNJ, recognized the potential of a formal strategic partnership.
“RBHS and Horizon share a common commitment to improving the lives of New Jersey residents and the state’s health care system. Our organizations realized that by combining forces, we could advance medicine, improve care and create better health outcomes for millions of New Jerseyans,” explained Dr. Strom.
So far, the partners are collaborating on more than 14 projects including research that may bring breakthroughs that make cancer screenings more conclusive; improve the effectiveness of flu vaccinations; adapt to the health consequences of climate change; or deploy virtual reality devices as a pain treatment alternative to opioids.
Allen Karp, Horizon BCBSNJ Executive Vice President for Health Care Management and Transformation
"By bringing together Rutgers’ remarkable research capabilities and Horizon’s data and clinical expertise, we have created a unique team that is leveraging the strengths of each organization to produce evidence that will improve the quality of health care – not just here in New Jersey, but across the globe,” said Karp.
Lofty goals, though, must start with down-to-earth planning. What kind of research would be involved? Why and to whom would that research be important? What is the goal of the partnership? How would studies be generated, vetted and monitored, and by whom?
“Our challenge from the beginning was to create a process and oversight structure that gave Rutgers and Horizon an equal voice in selecting projects and deciding how best to organize the project selection,” said Dr. Strom. “We ultimately decided to create three buckets of projects and to assign experts as chairs and co-chairs from both Rutgers and Horizon. These chairs and co-chairs meet formally during the year and are managing the work streams and timelines for the projects, from conception to conclusion.”
The categories Rutgers and Horizon agreed to pursue include:
Clinical Collaboration – Studies on how collaboration among different medical professionals can improve care and care interventions in such areas as oncology and behavioral health.
Research and Policy – Studies on disease states and medical conditions and how medical policies in these areas can be updated and improved.
Analytics and Integration – Studies on how data sharing can improve health screenings and quality of care.
The co-chairs in each category include top subject matter and policy experts for both organizations, and project topics cover a wide range of health care priorities, such as:
- Proton Beam therapy effectiveness
- Protein therapeutics in advanced lung cancer
- Adverse health outcomes from extreme weather events and climate change
- Cognitive rehabilitation in multiple sclerosis
- Antibiotics and how they interact with seasonal flu vaccines
“Care delivery is guided by medical policy, so it is vitally important that the medical evidence behind the policy is the best and most up-to-date as it can be. So, we are excited that this partnership will generate this medical evidence and help to ensure that Horizon members can benefit by the advances we are able to achieve together,” said Karp.
The research partnership took on even greater significance in 2018, when Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) announced a public-private partnership to jointly operate a world-class academic health system. RWJBH already works closely with Horizon BCBSNJ through the OMNIA Health Alliance, a strategic partnership working to improve health care quality, cost and the customer experience.
“The Rutgers partnership opens up more avenues of collaboration with RWJBH. There is enormous potential to develop new and effective approaches to medicine, with Rutgers providing the research acumen, Horizon providing data analytic support and RWJBH delivering to the patient the advances we collectively pioneer,” Karp added.
“With innovative partnerships like these that span health care delivery, payment, research and education we are making tremendous progress on our goals to become a leading academic health center for the 21st century and transform the health care delivery system for New Jersey with an emphasis on quality, safety and efficiency,” said Dr. Strom.