Running errands is a part of life that most New Jerseyans likely take for granted. Heading out to pick up dry cleaning, put gas in the car or do the grocery shopping for the week just comes easily and naturally. But not for everyone.
Many single parents don’t have the time or the resources to take care of life’s necessities. So, they make choices. And if the choice is between, say, going to the doctor or shopping for food, then there really is no choice at all.
And that’s the thinking behind an arrangement between Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus and Inserra Supermarkets. Last fall, the medical center opened its first CareRite Now center at Inserra Shoprite of Wallington. Staffed by doctors and nurses, the centers – another one has opened in New Milford and more are planned – offer sick and wellness visits, point of care testing, vaccinations, lab testing and blood draw services.
The centers allow vulnerable residents to get medical care on the same trip to the grocery store.
“If you’re a caregiver at home and you have children or elderly people and you can’t get out of your house but once a day, or you can only take that trip on the bus once a day, your priority is going to be food, that’s just natural,” Bergen New Bridge CEO Deborah Visconi explained to NJBIZ. “So, if you go to ShopRite to get food for your family, you can now go to the CareRite Now and get your child a physical, get a vaccine, get a strep test – do all kinds of things right in the ShopRite. And that’s been part of my vision to improve access.”
Health care executives across the industry spectrum talk eloquently about improving access. And the CareRite Now model has the potential to actually accomplish that goal – at least in Wallington, New Milford and, this fall, in Hillsdale.
“CareRite Now Wallington will ensure that the community has convenient access to quality health care right here in our store. Plans are underway for our dieticians and nutritionists to collaborate with Bergen New Bridge and CareRite Now providers to create programs, offer education, and more to improve the quality of life for the members of our community,” said Larry Inserra Jr., Inserra’s chair and CEO, when the first center opened.
“Good health outcomes are not possible without good nutrition, and they are not possible without partnerships like this one,” said Bergen County Board of Commissioners Chair Tracy Zur. “The bottom line is that this is going to be a game changer to bring health care where it is needed and to bring nutritional guidance to those who need it most.”
The groundwork for the program was outlined in the medical center’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment. The CHNA is a collaboration among the Bergen County Department of Health Services, the Community Health Partnership of Bergen County and the county’s seven acute care hospitals, including Bergen New Bridge.
Barriers to access identified in the CHNA included inconvenient office hours; cost of prescriptions; cost of physician visits; appointment availability; finding a physician; and lack of transportation. The assessment also showed that some residents skip or stretch their prescriptions and use emergency rooms for medical care.
The findings prompted Bergen New Bridge to enter communities and provide health care and other services away from the main campus. The medical center opened two satellite locations in Bergenfield and Paterson, staffed with health care professionals from the medical center. A Community Health Department was also created, allowing the provider to have a presence at community events around the county.
CareRite Now centers put Bergen New Bridge professionals much closer to residents than even satellite locations. “These are primary care doctors, so you get full service there,” Visconi said.
“It’s really been a great opportunity for our community and our ability to provide [better] access,” she added.
“The message is ‘we’re here for you – we’re here to help you, to be your health and healing resource’,” Visconi said in describing her vision for how Bergen New Bridge should be a part of its community. “And we always ask them – we don’t know everything. We need to hear from them, what do they need from us? If the COVID pandemic taught us anything, it’s that there are people in our communities that don’t access or can’t access the health care that they need for a variety of reasons. You’ve heard it wrapped into the social determinants of health – transportation, food insecurity, education. … And whether it’s putting together an educational program on vaping or working with the youth in our communities or going out to the religious community, the churches, and figuring out what can we do better – that’s really been our message and our mantra for the past five years.”
Inserra Supermarkets did not respond to a request for comment.