September/October 2007

Catholic Health Initiatives Launches Research & Development Initiative


Catholic Health Initiatives has embarked on a coordinated research and development effort to identify and evaluate new initiatives to drive innovation and advance health care delivery throughout the healing ministry. Alan Armer, PhD, vice president of research and development for Catholic Health Initiatives, said that R&D has a unique meaning at Catholic Health Initiatives. “It means using the experience and capabilities of our entire system to position us as the partner of choice for evaluating innovations that have the potential to transform health care delivery,” he said. “Our geographic breadth, access to large, diverse patient populations and expert clinical staff can make Catholic Health Initiatives a national laboratory for the exploration and testing of new technologies, products or services.”

Catholic Health Initiatives has embarked on a coordinated research and development effort to identify and evaluate new initiatives to drive innovation and advance health care delivery throughout the healing ministry. The term “research and development,” or R&D, has traditionally been associated with bench research and discovery conducted by major academic medical centers. “Within Catholic Health Initiatives, however, R&D has a different meaning and purpose,” said Alan Armer, PhD, vice president of research and development for Catholic Health Initiatives. Breaking New Ground “From Catholic Health Initiatives’ perspective, R&D means using the experience and capabilities of our entire system to position us as a ‘national laboratory’ for the evaluation of innovations that have the potential to transform health care delivery,” said Armer. “We are truly breaking new ground. “Our geographic breadth, access to large, diverse patient populations and expert clinical staff can make Catholic Health Initiatives an ideal partner for the exploration and testing of new technologies, products or services,” he continued. “R&D is part of Catholic Health Initiatives’ growth strategy and our commitment to transforming how health care is delivered to the communities we serve.” Creating an R&D Pipeline Armer will develop a “pipeline” of R&D initiatives that balance opportunities for innovation at a broad, system level with opportunities to provide significant clinical, operational and financial benefits to market-based organizations. “One set of initiatives will address the market forces shaping how health care will be delivered in the future. These initiatives will explore new models for providing care, including those that extend beyond our community hospital infrastructure,” he said. “Another set of initiatives will focus on opportunities that have potential to advance how we deliver care within our facilities. Achieving a balance will help keep Catholic Health Initiatives on the forefront of health care delivery and innovation.” Current Opportunities in the Pipeline There are currently a number of projects in Catholic Health Initiatives’ R&D pipeline, including three at various stages of implementation:
    Catholic Health Oncology Network The Catholic Health Oncology Network (CHON) is a nationally coordinated clinical research initiative. It focuses on advancing oncology therapy through clinical trials and related research conducted by market-based organizations and affiliated physicians. CHON’s first project involves participation in research conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the primary cancer research agency in the U.S. “Clinical research is a primary driver of continued innovation in health care,” said Armer. “While oncology clinical trials are currently being conducted at market-based organizations throughout Catholic Health Initiatives, CHON is a nationally coordinated clinical trial initiative. Its focus is enhancing participation in clinical trials system-wide and establishing Catholic Health Initiatives as a leading innovation- and research-focused network. The ability to deliver large pools of protocol-eligible trial patients, trained investigators and streamlined administrative processes through CHON will provide our market-based organizations with greater access to innovative trials. This will also make Catholic Health Initiatives a highly attractive partner in the evaluation of new therapeutic approaches to cancer.” Paul Edwards, coordinator of clinical research for Saint Elizabeth Health Systems in Lincoln, Neb., said, “Taking part in CHON will allow us to expand our efforts to locally offer our patients some of the highest-quality cancer studies and trials in the nation. We are delighted to be a part of this rapidly growing initiative.” Recently, five hospitals that are part of CHON were selected to participate in the NCI program that will help bring state-of-the-art cancer care to patients in community hospitals across the country. This is the first time the NCI has conducted clinical research in community hospitals. In addition, Catholic Health Initiatives is close to signing an agreement with a major pharmaceutical firm for an observational study of a drug for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer. “Eight market-based organizations will participate in this study, which we hope will be the first of many trials with this partner,” said Armer. Venture Capital Fund Catholic Health Initiatives has joined with two other Catholic health systems, Ascension Health and Catholic Health East (CHE), to form Catholic Health Venture II, LP (CHV II), a $200 million venture capital fund focused on making investments in the health care industry. Each of the three systems will be a limited partner; Ascension Health Ventures II, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ascension Health, will serve as general partner and provide management services for the fund. “This investment fund will create the unique opportunity to collaborate with a network of more than 180 hospitals in identifying and evaluating investment opportunities that can deliver significant clinical benefits to patients,” said Kevin Lofton, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives. “It’s a model of venture-backed innovation that we believe offers great potential for enhancing quality and the way health care is delivered.” “Participation in CHV II will provide Catholic Health Initiatives and our market-based organizations with a unique ‘line of sight’ into emerging innovations,” said Armer. “It will also be an important platform for building the R&D pipeline. We will partner with our market-based organizations and national core functions to identify areas of strategic, clinical and operational interest so that AHV search activities can be directed towards these areas. The same groups will also be part of the process to evaluate companies brought forward by AHV and assess the potential of their products to create value for Catholic Health Initiatives.” Robots in Rural Health The unique challenge of providing high-quality care to Catholic Health Initiatives’ rural communities is an area of focus for R&D. In these communities, access to quality care is constrained by many issues, including shortages of health care professionals. During the past several months, R&D has worked closely with the new CHI Kentucky region to develop a pilot project for evaluating the use of robotics to provide remote consultation in areas of high patient acuity. “This pilot will evaluate the use of robotics to provide specialist neurology coverage to emergency departments at rural hospitals,” said Armer. “Neurology specialists located at a command center at Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington, linked to rural emergency departments by an Internet connection and wireless network, will be available to help local caregivers determine how best to manage care for their stroke patients.” If the pilot is successful, it could serve as a platform for the exploration of other applications for the technology and as a model for other markets served by Catholic Health Initiatives. The pilot will also demonstrate how coordination and collaboration across market-based organizations can create enhanced regional models of care delivery. “One of the key strategic drivers in the formation of CHI Kentucky is to further our mission by transforming how we deliver care across a broad geography in ways that deliver measurable benefits to each of the communities we serve,” said Gene Woods, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives Kentucky region. “The robotics pilot is an excellent example of how R&D brings innovation and value to market-driven initiatives aimed at improving how health care is delivered.”
Guidance for R&D Initiatives All of Catholic Health Initiatives’ R&D efforts will receive guidance from a Research and Development Steering Council. Members include a mix of system-level and market-level executives: John Anderson, MD Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Catholic Health Initiatives John DiCola Senior Vice President Strategy and Business Development Catholic Health Initiatives Kevin Lofton President and Chief Executive Officer Catholic Health Initiatives Michael Rowan Chief Operating Officer Catholic Health Initiatives Kathy Sanford, RN Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Catholic Health Initiatives John Tolmie President and Chief Executive Officer St. Joseph Medical Center Towson, Md. Gene Woods President and Chief Executive Officer CHI Kentucky The Steering Council meets each quarter to review opportunities brought forward by R&D. The Steering Council also approves requests for funding from a $25 million Capital Resource Pool, which the Catholic Health Initiatives Board of Stewardship Trustees committed to funding for five years. Armer emphasized the importance of broad-based system participation in guiding the R&D effort. “The success of R&D is largely dependent on input, participation and feedback from Catholic Health Initiatives and our market-based organizations,” he said. “Our R&D efforts must be aligned with strategic priorities across the system to ensure that we deliver a balanced portfolio of value-added initiatives.”