New Jersey health systems are getting back to business, with executives turning their attention to the future and touting accomplishments and milestones unrelated to COVID-19. What follows is a roundup of some of the recent activity across the state.
Leading off is The Overlook Foundation, the nonprofit, private organization that supports Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center. It kicked off a public campaign to raise funds for a multi-phase expansion and enhancement project that will transform the hospital, positioning it for future excellence.
The campaign, Overlook Ahead, will help financially support a plan to restructure 90% of the hospital’s patient care spaces, including new medical infrastructure in every room, a tripling of the number of private rooms, several brand-new units, and eight more operating rooms. In all, the project includes 456,000 total square feet of new and renovated space at Overlook’s main campus in Summit, at a cost of $169 million.
“Overlook is recognized as a beacon of innovation and excellent care, with an amazing team of clinicians and cutting-edge programs,” said Overlook President Stephanie Schwartz. “I look forward to continuing that tradition of excellence and taking it to the next level. As we embark on this campaign, we’re giving our world-class teams the facility, tools and resources to complement the incredible work they do, and setting Overlook up to provide the best care now and in the future.”
Added Clelia Biamonti, executive director of the Overlook Foundation: “For more than 115 years, Overlook has stood ready to assist those in need. Rarely has our commitment to and impact on the community been tested more than over the last 26 months, yet through the compassion and resilience of our team members, Overlook has emerged stronger. We have learned new ways to care for patients, and through this campaign, are preparing ourselves for what the future has in store.”
The plan includes projects that were recently completed, notably the renovation of the entrance to the Bouras Emergency Department, the South Parking Garage for employees, and the Hersh Children’s Center, all of which were finished in 2021. The children’s center, a nearly 12,000-square-foot facility that opened in January, centralizes the hospital’s pediatric emergency and inpatient services in one convenient, family-friendly space.
“After becoming involved at Overlook some 20 years ago, we have seen the hospital grow into a premier destination in the health care arena,” said campaign chairs Meri and Sol Barer, longtime supporters of Overlook. “It has been our pleasure to partner with an amazing community of donors to provide support to the world-class physicians, nurses, and team members who deliver the very best care to patients and their families each and every day. This campaign for a transformed hospital excites us because it will create a patient experience like few others.”
Hackensack Meridian Health is launching a New Jersey Innovation Challenge to foster new ideas and disruptive solutions from New Jersey companies.
The goal is to add to the network’s comprehensive strategies to continuously improve the patient experience and patient outcomes throughout the state.
“We are challenging companies throughout New Jersey to play a role in helping us transform health care,’” said CEO Robert Garrett. “The best ideas sometimes take fresh approaches from a wide array of perspectives. Our health network prides itself on finding new ways to do even better.”
The Challenge seeks to reduce 30-day readmissions for: acute myocardial infarction; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; heart failure; pneumonia; coronary artery bypass graft surgery; and elective primary total hip arthroplasty and/or total knee arthroplasty.
Entries will be accepted between May 6 and July 15. Entrants must be companies registered in New Jersey and must submit applications to pitch their concepts to Hackensack Meridian Health. The companies must also have: a minimum revenue of $50,000 over the last 12 months; a viable product or solution ready for piloting or testing; a core team in place to provide program management and pilot support; seed capital of at least $100,000; and a business plan for two to three years of projected growth.
If the application is accepted, it will be followed by a virtual pitch session with subject matter experts and system leaders to narrow down to three applications. Those three applications will then be decided at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Bear’s Den innovation program. The top three companies will benefit from a number of different opportunities, including piloting their solution, a strategic development relationship, as well as potential investment in their company, to name a few.
“We are always looking to improve what we do, through research and ideas,” said Ihor Sawczuk Hackensack Meridian Health’s president of academics, research and innovation, and also associate dean of Clinical Integration and professor and chair emeritus of urology at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “New ideas are the way to drive progress, and New Jersey is at the forefront of pushing the envelope with innovation. We want to partner to bring these solutions to our communities – so we can keep getting better.”
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Advanced Certification in Comprehensive Stroke Center by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The Gold Seal is a symbol of quality that reflects a health care organization’s commitment to providing safe and quality patient care.
The RWJUH Stroke program underwent a virtual survey in April, where a team from TJC evaluated compliance with national standards, clinical guidelines and outcomes of care for stroke. The virtual visit spanned several areas including the Emergency Department, Radiology, Interventional Radiology, Neurocritical Care Unit, Neurology Intermediate Care Unit and Neurology floor. The program received a perfect survey result from the visit, meaning there were no requirements for improvement cited.
“Earning this certification from the Joint Commission demonstrates our team’s commitment to quality, patient safety, pursuit of innovation and implementation of the most current, best practices, including clinical trials, to deliver the best possible outcomes for stroke patients in our state,” said Kiwon Lee, chief of neurology at RWJUH and medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center. “Providing exceptional stroke care is the direct result of contributions from our entire multidisciplinary team – neurology, neurosurgery, emergency care, emergency medical services, critical care, nursing, radiology, pharmacy, laboratory, physical rehabilitation, and social work – who work tirelessly to return our patients to an active, healthy lifestyle.”
The Joint Commission’s standards are developed in consultation with health care experts and providers, measurement experts and patients. They are informed by scientific literature and expert consensus to help health care organizations measure, assess and improve performance. The surveyors also conducted onsite observations and interviews.
“We are proud that our Stroke Team has maintained this prestigious certification since 2013,” said Bill Arnold, RWJUH’s president and chief executive officer. “Earning this re-certification with a ‘perfect’ survey and such high commendations from TJC surveyors underscores a culture of excellence and patient-centered care across all of the integrated stroke care teams at our academic medical center. Patients and their families can be confident that they will receive the best available interventions and ongoing care for stroke and have every opportunity to regain the lifestyle they had before their stroke.”
The Comprehensive Stroke Center at RWJUH provides patients with rapid diagnosis and treatment, specialized inpatient care, and access to clinical research through its relationship with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. RWJUH received its first Advanced Certification in Comprehensive Stroke Center in 2013 from TJC. The 2022 certification marks the program’s fifth consecutive re-certification and underscores the institution’s commitment to serve its communities with the highest levels of life-saving care.
RWJUH is also designated a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the New Jersey Department of Health and the American Heart Association.
Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health system, marked the fifth anniversary of its “Eat Well” food-access program, which launched in spring 2017 with the introduction of a year-round Mobile Farmers Market. The program has since expanded with a Mobile Grocery Store—a 40-foot converted transit bus—and Food Farmacy with two locations.
The May 6 celebration included free health screenings, chair massages and prizes—peelers, potholders, can openers and other kitchen tools. Guests were also able to shop at the two mobile stores and visit Virtua’s Camden Food Farmacy. The first 75 families received a reusable shopping bag containing a delicious, healthy recipe (pico de gallo) and all the ingredients to make it at home. Refreshments included carrot-cake cupcakes and whole fresh fruits. Invited children from nearby schools received “kid bags” of fresh produce, sidewalk chalk and bubbles.
Virtua’s Eat Well program enhances access to healthy, affordable food in food-desert communities across South Jersey. It helps reduce risks of diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
“Over the past five years, this program has become life-changing for thousands of area residents,” said Debra Moran, Virtua’s vice president of community-based services. “People are eating better and feeling better. And their children are learning healthy eating habits, which will bring life-long benefits to them and future generations.”
Virtua’s “Eat Well” food-access program provides fresh, healthy, culturally relevant foods at deeply discounted prices to neighborhoods-in-need across Burlington and Camden counties. A Registered Dietitian is available to answer customers’ dietary questions, provide easy, healthy recipes, and offer one-on-one nutrition counseling.
The program addresses a significant need: An estimated 15% of Camden County residents and 12% of Burlington County residents don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to Feeding America. Moreover, studies show that eating healthy food helps prevent and reduce the severity of many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers.
“[Eat Well’s] service is amazing and the produce is so fresh! I especially love that they promote healthy eating to everyone, but the fact that they offer 50% incentives to SNAP EBT customers shows they care most about those in need,” one customer said.
“The Eat Well team has developed strong relationships with the communities we serve, which has been a key element of our growth and success,” said April Schetler, head of Eat Well and assistant vice president of community health engagement at Virtua. “Looking ahead, we want to create even more opportunities to enhance food access and help people appreciate that healthy eating is foundational to a person’s quality of life.”