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Camden Coalition to Set Up National Center to Focus on Complex Patients

March 8, 2016
by David Raths
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With $8.7 million in funding, center will bring together practitioners working with these patients around the country

The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers plans to establish a national center to improve care for high-need patients who experience poor outcomes despite extreme patterns of hospitalizations or emergency care. AARP, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are collectively providing $8.7 million to fund the center.

Led by Jeffrey Brenner, M.D. and working in one of the poorest cities in the country, Camden, N.J., the Camden Coalition has attracted national attention for developing programs to provide the small percentage of hospital service “super users” with better, more coordinated care to keep them out of the emergency room and decrease the overall cost to the system.

The Camden Coalition uses coordinated, data-driven, and patient-centered approaches—including addressing needs that have traditionally been considered “nonmedical,” such as addiction, housing, transportation, hunger, mental health, and emotional and educational support.

The national center will bring together practitioners working with these patients around the country and serve as a hub to unite and advance the nascent field.

“Across the country, innovators are developing new models of healthcare delivery that lower costs and improve care for patients who are overwhelmed by the challenges of navigating the complexity of the American health care system,” said Brenner, executive director of the Camden Coalition, in a prepared statement. “By developing a professional home for those who are involved in this rapidly growing field, we hope to bring disparate efforts together to improve the research base, share emerging ideas, and inspire the next generation of health care providers.”

The Camden Coalition’s approach began to gain national attention more than a decade ago when Brenner found that 20 percent of patients accounted for 80 percent of hospital costs in Camden, due to disorganized care. One patient, for instance, had been to the emergency department 113 times in a single year; another made 324 emergency visits over the course of five years. Brenner and his colleagues discovered that identifying these patients, improving transitions from the hospital back to their homes, and providing much-needed medical and social support, could reduce costly hospital visits and improve patients’ overall wellness.

During this inaugural year, the Coalition will solicit significant input from innovators and stakeholders from around the country to inform the center’s development. For more information about the national center or to learn more about the field of treating high-cost, high-needs patients, visit