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NJII deploying innovation to cut health care costs


Tomas Gregorio, senior executive director for health care systems innovation at New Jersey Innovation Institute.
Tomas Gregorio, senior executive director for health care systems innovation at New Jersey Innovation Institute.-(NJII)

The New Jersey Innovation Institute, a corporation of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, operates across several industry sectors via its network of iLabs. None of its innovation hubs is more active than the Healthcare Delivery Systems iLab. As senior executive director for healthcare systems innovation, Tomas Gregorio and his team work with NJIT’s R&D arm and industry partners to establish and build organizations based in health care. NJBIZ talked to Gregorio and Dr. Haro Hartounian, executive director for biotechnology and pharmaceutical innovation, for an update on several projects, including the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative, which directed participants to devise ways to improve health care quality while reducing costs. Funding for this program was only given to 29 health care institutions, including NJII.


NJBIZ: What’s the latest with the CMS project?

Gregorio: We’re in our third year [of] our 4 year CMS project and have a network of nearly 10,000 physicians, impacting 500,000 patients to achieve $155 million in cost savings by the end of 2019. Right now, although we are still validating processes and procedures, we have $120 million in costs savings and are 12 months ahead of schedule. Right now, we’re ready in our next reporting period to show CMS – and this still has to be validated by them – $120 million in total savings in total cost of care in doing the work that we do. CMS has already approved $50 million of that. We are 12 months ahead of schedule.

NJBIZ: What is the New Jersey Health Information Network?

It is a system that is being developed to lower the cost of health care while maintaining quality. With all the interventions and data movements that we’re able to perform here at NJII, the work we’re doing in taking the cost and the waste out of health care is working.  On top of that, we are responsible for creating the New Jersey Health Information Network. There are 9.5 million residents in New Jersey, and it’s our job to lay on top of them a unique number so that an individual can be identified anywhere in the state. So in the next two years, a doctor can get your information anywhere you go in the country. That information is tied to that one identifier. That system prevents fraud, improves care coordination, reduces unnecessary testing, improves patient safety and lowers cost. We’ve saved over $300 million in incentive payments to clients and providers since 2015, so we’re very much involved in the value-based universe that the health care industry is moving towards.

NJBIZ: What was unveiled during your recent event on new technology from Canada?

Gregorio: Canada Health Day was similar to what we already do in New Jersey. Both Canada and the U.S. are interested in advancing health care technologies, strengthen the ties between both countries and improve population health between here and Canada. We want to find the next disruptor in health care, and we shouldn’t only have to look in our own backyard for that next disruptor.

NJBIZ: What’s the latest with Agile Partners, your new tech partnership with Hackensack Meridian?

Gregorio: Agile Partners, since July, has been involved in 10 events, with five of them in which we had different companies coming in to demonstrate new technology to the patient experience and customer interaction. … We’ve had 90 new companies that have gone through our Health IT Connections Program, and HMH has seen over 100 of these companies. They are going through their whittling process to figure out which ones they would like to invest in or nurture even further, so it’s going very well so far.

NJBIZ: NJII and Rutgers University in October announced the creation of the Continuous Manufacturing Institute to advance innovative technologies in the pharmaceutical industry. How’s that going?

Hartounian: We have partnered with Rutgers to launch a state-of-the-art facility for continuous manufacturing of small molecules and biologics. We are in the process of selecting the site. This institute will be a collaborative platform led by the NJII and Rutgers, where the biopharmaceutical industry, technology developers, academia and government agencies address the biologics regulatory and manufacturing challenges of today and the future.

NJBIZ: One of NJII’s most recent developments is its partnership with Celgene Corp. to create a training facility for immunotherapy.

Hartounian: We have launched our Cell and Gene Therapy Development Center. The objective of this center is to provide process development, scale-up and [good manufacturing practice] clinical production for cell and gene therapy products, as well as to provide workforce development and training for professionals who are working in this field. Our goal is to partner with companies such as Celgene and others to provide these services and assist them in providing these technologies to the patients.

NJBIZ: Can you speak about any new programs or initiatives that NJII is working on?

Gregorio: We’re in the process of working out innovation as a service. We’ve bundled innovation out as a service, and now we can go to other health systems and tell them, “Hey, this program works in Newark, and you can do it in Cape May, Camden, Atlantic City or wherever a health system wants to do the same type of work.” If health care systems are looking to figure out what internal ideas their employees might have, what we can create is a demonstration project and help the health systems develop innovation, as well as commercialize those products outside the health system and beyond those four walls of the health system. So we imagine being able to set up pods in other health systems around the state or creating new ones. That is something that we’re working on actively. We’re getting close to contracting with some health systems.”

NJBIZ: What can New Jersey do better to foster innovation in the state?

Gregorio: There is a need for more innovation labs around the state. NJII president Don Sebastian believes these innovation labs should strategically represent particular regions in the state. New Jersey needs to innovate to be competitive. In March [Gov. Phil Murphy] announced a new innovation hub in downtown New Brunswick. In New Brunswick, you have Rutgers, RWJBarnabas Health and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. So it’s a great place to incubate ideas. It’s important that the state creates more of these hubs to capture the various innovations and ideas that’s available in particular areas.

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