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VCU receives $10 million to lead primary care improvement initiative in Virginia

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Virginia Commonwealth University this month received a three-year $10 million grant to establish a statewide consortium to help small-to-medium-sized primary care practices in Virginia deliver better care, shepherd better patient experiences and improve satisfaction among clinicians.

The project will serve up to 300 practices in the commonwealth and focus on improving heart health. VCU is one of seven grantees across the nation awarded as part of EvidenceNOW – Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care, an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality initiative.

“Primary care is undervalued and is not reaching its full potential, and very importantly a lot of primary care physicians are feeling tired and worn out,” said Anton Kuzel, M.D., chair and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, VCU School of Medicine. “We can’t afford to lose that kind of precious resource.”

“The goal of the EvidenceNOW initiative is to give primary care practices the support they need to help patients live healthier and longer,” said Sylvia M. Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “By targeting smaller practices, we have a unique opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk factors for hundreds of thousands of patients, and learn what kind of support results in better patient outcomes.”

The Virginia consortium, which will be called Heart of Virginia Healthcare, will work with primary care practices to utilize patient-centered outcomes research findings to improve the percentage of patients successfully managing health issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

This grant allows us to press forward with our goal to ensure that all Virginians have access to a modern, efficient and well-managed primary care delivery system.

“This grant allows us to press forward with our goal to ensure that all Virginians have access to a modern, efficient and well-managed primary care delivery system,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “More than 385,000 Virginians signed up for or renewed health coverage during this year’s open-enrollment period on the Federal Marketplace. We must make sure they have the highest quality of care available in their communities. The remarkable team of experts who are guiding this project help to make VCU one of the finest health care institutions in the world, and I am confident they will make great improvements to primary care in the Commonwealth.”

“The medical home is a pillar of health and health care especially for those with the complex needs such as so many of our aging citizens,” said Bill Hazel, M.D., Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources. “The grant will expand access to high quality primary care for many Virginians.”

Patient-centered outcomes research includes patients in the research process and is intended to answer patient-centered questions about options for care and health improvement.

“A lot of research that has been done historically in medicine has been in settings that are not really like where most people live, work and get their care,” Kuzel said. “In the last 10 years, however, there has been an emphasis on making sure we’re doing research that does represent those areas, and the findings of that research are the ones that primary care physicians and their patients need to understand and utilize.”

Heart of Virginia Healthcare support will include on-site coaching, expert consultation, collaborative learning events, an online support center, and feedback and benchmarking. Participating practices will develop stronger quality improvement capacity and learn strategies that can help them sustain and revitalize their organizations.

“The reason primary care physicians feel overburdened and overworked is that they’re being asked to do more than is really humanly possible in a reasonable work day,” Kuzel said. “We’re going to show them how they can afford to have staffing models that allow them to transfer some of their extra work and also to serve more patients within a system that is satisfying to all involved.”

“The VCU School of Medicine and VCU Health System are committed to the primary care needs of Virginia and this award will help us lead innovation that will improve health care delivery and the well-being of Virginians. It should also bring forward models that will benefit the national primary care needs,” said Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine and interim vice president for VCU Health Sciences and CEO of the VCU Health System. “Dr. Kuzel and his team are recognized authorities in this arena and their collective expertise ensures that important contributions will be forthcoming.”

The project will complement current community-engaged research strategies at VCU’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research, which has focused on working alongside the primary care practice community in Virginia and beyond.

“Dr. Kuzel’s study is an exciting advancement for community-engaged research at VCU,” said Alex Krist, M.D., director of community-engaged research at the VCU CCTR. “It is designed to strengthen our community of primary care practices in Virginia, which in turn will improve health care delivery, outcomes for patients and our potential to do research that matters to practicing clinicians.”

Heart of Virginia Healthcare is comprised of Virginia Center for Health Innovation, four of Virginia’s schools of medicine, VHQC and evaluation specialists at George Mason University.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, awarded the grant, RFA-HS-14-008.

 

Feature photo at top: Anton Kuzel, M.D., chairman and professor, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, VCU School of Medicine.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.