Dr. Ram Raju has returned to the city's hospital system after leading Chicago's Cook County Health System for two years—bringing with him a vision that starts with health, rather than sickness. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
We could barely take five steps inside Bellevue Hospital without Dr. Ram Raju greeting a familiar face with a smile, a handshake, and inquiring about their health.
"Good to see you, everything ok?" Raju says.
Raju is the president of the Health and Hospitals Corporation.
"Why are you short of breath?"
So his vision for the HHC shouldn't come as a surprise. He wants HHC to spread its arms further into the community, assess the needs, and provide care in areas where health disparities are the greatest.
"The concept of providing healthcare through the hospital has got to change. So that simply means that we have to create community access, then able to coordinate the care in a way that the specialty care is given in some other place, the in-patient in some other place," Raju says.
It's similar to what he worked on as head of Chicago's Cook County hospital system, first getting a waiver to early enroll over 100,000 into medicaid.
"We created over 136 access points across Cook County. Only 18 is ours, the rest were collaborations with the federally qualified health centers, community based doctors, clinics, other hospital systems," Ram says.
He's now hoping to use some of New York's recently acquired eight million dollar Medicaid waiver - to put his plan into action.
"It'll help us identify the areas where we need to provide the primary and preventive care... This has to be done in a much more data driven, objective manner. As opposed to just starting a clinic where it's convenient for you."
But many challenges lie ahead—communities and professional health unions are fighting tooth and nail to keep full service hospitals.
Raju will have to find a way to get his workforce on board with this new way of delivering care.
"We need to create a platform for the employees to understand why we need to do these things. Why it's important to have healthcare, not the way we practiced before" says Ram.
The old way he says is "sick" care not "health" care. He's tapping into the goal of the Affordable Care Act, trying to find ways to shift focus to preventative primary care.
"In the past it was all about competition. Hospitals competing with other hospitals. Doctors competing with other doctors. The future healthcare model is all about collaboration, cooperation...Health and Hospitals will be a leader in creating that kind of model," Ram says.
Other goals he says is to improve on HHC's operations, in part by getting the workforce to work more efficiently, cutting waste. He also wants to secure federal funding to better protect vulnerable hospitals like Bellevue and Coney Island from future super storms.