Just a few years ago, Rutgers did not have a medical school, it did not have a dental school, and it most certainly did not have upward of 1,000 physicians and other health care  professionals treating patients in specialties as diverse as maxillofacial surgery and radiation oncology. Yes, Rutgers scholars have tackled health care policy and problems for years, even discovering a cure for tuberculosis in 1943, but the university was not a hub of academic health care.

That all changed in 2013, when much of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey was integrated into Rutgers. Now Rutgers has not just one medical school but two—New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School—as well as other schools devoted to medical research, providing care, and training health care professionals, from dentists to nurses to physician assistants. The change was a momentous one for Rutgers, no doubt, but in some respects it was just the start of a transformation now taking shape with the creation of Rutgers Health.

Rutgers Health story call out

Rutgers Health, announced this spring, is first and foremost an academic health care provider organization that’s out to reshape patient care in New Jersey and beyond. Rutgers Health is the clinical arm of the university, and it includes Rutgers health care practitioners—doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, and allied health professionals.

“Rutgers Health will bring together the critical missions of all university clinical activities under one umbrella,” says Rutgers president Robert Barchi, a neuroscientist and neurologist.

There’s a simple proposition at the heart of Rutgers Health, and it’s this: Let’s keep people healthy. With the Affordable Care Act and other changes in the health care landscape, a newfound emphasis is being placed on preventative care, as well as shifting the focus from fee-based services to value, quality of care, and the patient experience.

This is a tectonic shift in health care, and it’s one happening across the country. As an article in the Harvard Business Review puts it, “In health care, the days of business as usual are over.” The business-as-usual way of managing health care relied on volume—more tests, more procedures, more patients. But with health care spending out of control, a new approach underscores the quality of care, patient outcomes, and accountability. What does this mean for patients? Among other things, it places the onus on  data-driven treatment choices, speedier recovery times, less paperwork, and fewer medical errors. “It’s time for a fundamentally new strategy,” the Harvard Business Review article says. “At its core is maximizing value for patients: that is, achieving the best  outcomes at the lowest cost.”

And Rutgers Health aims to be at the forefront. “The business model for health care is changing nationwide,” says Brian Strom, executive vice president for health affairs and chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, who will oversee the development of Rutgers Health. “We are very quickly moving from volume to value.”

Rutgers is well positioned to be a leader in New Jersey and elsewhere. “Rutgers Health represents a paradigm shift in the way health care is going to be delivered in New Jersey,” says President Barchi. “It allows the patient direct access to providers who themselves are doing the cutting-edge research that delivers the newest tools, the most effective treatments, and the best approaches to keeping them well.”

Rutgers Health will also become one of the first academic health care provider organizations in the nation to integrate a full range of health-related specialties—including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and clinical psychology—in addition to fields such as neurology, surgery, cardiology, and oncology.

The changes won’t happen overnight. Rutgers Health, which was approved by the Board of Governors in the spring, will be developed over several years. The organization includes three key components: Rutgers Health as the clinical arm  of the university, serving as a brand for all Rutgers patient care and  services; Rutgers Health Group,  which will be developed as a statewide faculty practice, comprising more than 1,000 Rutgers-based  physicians, dentists, and other  clinicians; and Rutgers Health Network, which will encompass  the teaching hospitals, community centers, medical groups, wellness  centers, and other affiliated entities and partners providing quality care through their relationship with Rutgers.

“I foresee a time in the not-too-distant future when people in New Jersey and the states around us, and  in fact across the entire country, will look to Rutgers Health as one of the premier health care delivery networks in the nation,” says President Barchi. •

For further information, visit rutgershealth.org.