Jeffrey Brenner, MD, will be a keynote speaker at the 2012 Colorado Health Symposium, July 25-27 at Keystone Resort and Conference Center. The theme of this year's Symposium, "Health Equity: Bridging the Divides," focuses on real-world solutions to challenges in health and health care.
With high poverty, crime and unemployment rates, Camden, N.J. is hardly the picture of health among American cities. Yet, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Jeffrey Brenner, MD, Camden may hold the answer to one of the nation's most vexing quandaries: reducing the cost of health care.
Dr. Brenner is the founder and executive director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, an alliance of hospitals, health providers and community residents working together to build an integrated health care delivery model that provides better care for Camden's impoverished residents.
Using medical billing data from emergency rooms, Brenner mapped out "hot spots" of Camden's most costly patients. In evaluating the data, Brenner determined that the most expensive patients received what he described as "terrible care" in hospitals.
"American health care doesn't do a good job taking care of sick people," Brenner said in a "Frontline" documentary. "We built our system in a way that's very hard to access. It works fine for the average patient, but if you are blind, disabled, deaf or in a wheelchair, if you don't speak the language, if are developmentally delayed or if you have a complex mix of illnesses with many providers involved, the whole system starts to break down."
Taking the data he gathered, Brenner targeted the sickest and most expensive patients in Camden. With support from small medical foundation grants, he assembled a team of medical "hotspotters," including nurses, social workers and physicians' assistants, who make follow-up calls and home visits to those who receive care. In just three years, the team has provided organized care to more than 300 people. In some cases, Brenner said this innovative approach has delivered cost reductions as high as 50 percent, while also reducing emergency room visits and improving individuals' health as well as their experience with the health care system.
Though the hotspotting approach seems to work in Camden, Brenner said it could potentially shake up the U.S. health care system by taking the most expensive (and lucrative) patients out of hospitals.
"This kind of work is a game-changer," Brenner told "Frontline." "... Better care for sick people is disruptive change."
Brenner's work with the coalition has been profiled in The New Yorker and on MSNBC. He will give the lunch keynote speech on Day One of the 2012 Colorado Health Symposium, addressing the plenary theme "At What Price Health?"