Rewards, Community Involvement Build Patient Engagement at Jersey City Medical Center

Patient engagement plays an integral role in population health management and accountable care, because patients tend to be healthier when involved in their care.

"If a doctor or other provider has a care plan for a patient, there are no regulations or laws — and there shouldn't be — [that can] force patients to follow the plan," says Susan Walsh, MD, FACP, the accountable care organization medical director at Jersey City (N.J.) Medical Center. "But if they can become engaged in the management of their chronic disease early on, that is one way to move forward."

Though engagement is important, patients lead very busy lives and managing their health is not always a top priority, so Jersey City Medical Center set out to help. "We say that engaging patients means helping them put healthy choices a little higher on their list of things to do for today," Dr. Walsh explains. To that end, in May 2012, Dr. Walsh helped launch the Wealth from Health club as part of JCMC's ACO initiatives. WFH rewards chronically ill patients who take steps to effectively manage their illness and stay healthy.


Based on a successful program developed by Douglas Ratner, MD, chair of JCMC’s Department of Medicine, patients earn points in multiple ways. Through a web portal, patients can log in and access interactive programs on their chronic condition and share them with family members or partners in their care. "The interactive programs, provided by Emmi Solutions, are an important part of the patient education piece of engagement," says Dr. Walsh. "Knowledge is power when it comes to chronic disease management," she adds, "and the programs give patients the right information at a time most convenient for them”.

Patients can also earn points by picking up prescriptions on-time, keeping physician appointments and taking surveys through the portal, according to Dr. Walsh. Once a patient earns enough points, he or she can receive a gift card as a reward for the effort.

Community involvement

WFH goes beyond just allowing patients to earn points by sticking to a care plan — it also rewards them for making healthy choices in the community. "Accountable care is tied with community health," Dr. Walsh says, so JCMC reached out to area businesses to get involved.

Program members receive a picture ID card they can show at local businesses to receive a discount on healthy options. For example, at a local tavern, members receive a 10 percent discount if they choose a salad instead of French fries. Program members also have access to discounts on yoga classes, gym memberships and spas, among many others.

Wealth from Health doesn't just benefit the patient members; local businesses also get a boost. "It drives patients to these businesses," Dr. Walsh explains. "And it keeps money in the local community." She adds that all of the businesses her staff have approached about participating have been enthusiastic.


The program is under a year old and still in its beginning phase, with just 100 members. Even though the program is too small to produce solid metrics-driven results, patients have responded positively. "Families tell us we're on the right path," Dr. Walsh says, "and I am fortunate to have a very committed and enthusiastic staff working with the patients."

Dr. Walsh hopes to expand the program to include patients beyond those with chronic diseases. "We eventually want this to be an 'everybody' program," she says. "We can help kids, teens and young adults make good decisions now, which will eventually lead to a healthier overall population."

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