Newark's hurting for healthcare transformation, Barnabas CEO says

By Bill Wichert | NJ Advance Media for
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on April 29, 2015

Barnabas Health President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky discusses the transformation of the healthcare industry on Tuesday at an event hosted by the Newark Regional Business Partnership.


NEWARK — The head of Barnabas Health, the largest hospital network in New Jersey, Barry Ostrowsky said his industry has been defined by organizations that await people's illnesses.

"For years, we've been successful only by welcoming those who are already sick," said Ostrowsky, the network's President and CEO. "We don't get to know the consumer until the consumer becomes a patient."

But that dynamic is about to change, Ostrowsky said, as the healthcare industry is transformed through a greater focus on providing services in local communities and helping residents lead healthy lives before they become sick.

"We have to get into the lives of people before they become patients and, frankly, I would like to avert their becoming patients, because that's the mission we should have and that's the outcome that will determine whether we've been successful," Ostrowsky said.

Ostrowsky laid out that vision of a "new healthcare paradigm" on Tuesday morning before about 100 industry professionals and others at an event hosted by the Newark Regional Business Partnership.

Noting the residential and commercial development in Newark, Ostrowsky said the city has been "riding a great wave of success," and improving healthcare services could further boost economic development in the Newark area.

"We're watching as Newark becomes the powerhouse city on the East Coast that it's long deserved to be," said Ostrowsky, adding that Newark and the surrounding region "will make itself a destination for the delivery of healthcare and the maintenance of a better life for all who live here."

If such a transformation did not occur, Ostrowsky said he feared "healthcare in Newark could be a drag on this great economic rebirth of the city."

Ostrowsky noted the research done by Barnabas Health into the health conditions in Newark, showing that city residents disproportionately suffer from various issues, including diabetes and hypertension.

To improve healthcare in Newark, Ostrowsky said Barnabas Health was investing money in "public health services," which includes talking to residents about nutrition and assisting them at locations within their own communities.

"It's about being in the communities and delivering the care in the neighborhoods, delivering the care in venues that are more accessible, delivering the care the people want," Ostrowsky said.

Under the healthcare reform law, Ostrowsky said organizations like Barnabas Health would receive funding to assist designated groups of Medicare beneficiaries.

With that money, for example, Ostrowsky said Barnabas Health could help an elderly resident at risk of falling in his home and breaking a hip.

Instead of waiting to provide medical treatment afterwards, Ostrowsky said healthcare workers would visit the home and propose changes to prevent the accident from occurring in the first place.

Ostrowsky also said Barnabas Health is talking to cultural groups about specific illnesses affecting those groups – rather than try a one-size-fits-all approach.

"Little by little, we are taking the precious resources we have and we are allocating them to getting into our communities, not simply staying in our building, but being in the communities and trying to deliver to those in the community the kind of care and support that they need," Ostrowsky said.

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