Nazareth College of Rochester and Unity Health System are cooperating to develop programs and share services to improve education for health care workers.
The collaboration will include opportunities for research, program development and the extension of a continuum of care between the health system and Nazareth College's Academic Center for Wellness and Rehabilitation.
Under the partnership, Nazareth students will have access to patients and patient data, which also allows Unity employees to participate in research under the mentorship of Nazareth faculty, college officials said. It also will promote an exchange between practicing clinicians and Nazareth faculty to ensure the most current knowledge and practical applications available are being used.
"Unity Health System is excited to partner with Nazareth College on this significant step forward in the training and education of future health care professionals," said Warren Hern, Unity Health System president and CEO. "Linking Nazareth's national reputation with Unity's wide breadth of programs and services will further enhance Rochester's reputation for high-quality, low-cost health care."
The partnership is among a growing number of local collaborations between health care organizations and universities. St. John Fisher College and the University of Rochester Medical Center are collaborating on a Center for Excellence in Pain Education. In 2011 Rochester Institute of Technology and Rochester General Health System announced a partnership to open the Institute of Health Sciences and Technology.
One goal of the Nazareth-Unity partnership is to keep patients out of acute care and in community settings, preventing relapses that bring them back to more costly emergency care, said Daan Braveman, president of Nazareth.
Community reintegration will be part of that strategy. The partnership will extend the continuum of care available to patients with functional impairments by developing a referral process and intake coordination between Unity and Nazareth's Center for Wellness and Rehabilitation. This will extend services like art therapy, nursing, music therapy and physical therapy from Nazareth to a wider audience.
With the partnership, Nazareth takes on a more prominent leadership role in meeting the health system workforce needs of the community, Braveman said. The education of health care professionals is key to improving the quality, efficiency, affordability and accessibility of health care in the community, he added.
"What we're focusing on is preparing students for the workforce in these allied health fields to work in a model that's interprofessional, with people from different disciplines working together to make sure a person gets rehabilitated and doesn't end up in acute care again," Braveman said.
The program will bring additional benefits to the community, Hern said.
"I think this will create an organization that will attract the most top-notch students in the country here," he said. "With Nazareth having one of the biggest array of professional opportunities of just about any college in the country, and Unity having one of the biggest array of services around-from brain injury to neurology to nursing homes to hospitals-the combination will attract some great people here and hopefully keep the best here."
Any work to develop students will bolster Nazareth's already strong retention rate of students, Braveman noted. About 80 percent of Nazareth graduates remain in the area after college to work.
Unity has worked with students and universities throughout the state and nation in the past, but this more defined partnership allows the system to take its collaboration to the next level in reducing overall health care costs, said Maria Anderson, program director of the brain injury and rehab unit at Unity.
"An important part of this collaboration will be a transition group where we can think about the community as a whole and how patients move through the continuum of care," Anderson said. "Now a patient who comes through Unity won't be at the end when they're discharged. We can transition them to clinics at Nazareth to continue to work on goals and programs to continue their progress in a formal way."
This transition also helps patients remain on track and stay out of the more costly emergency care.
Nazareth is a particularly good setting for the partnership because of its on-campus clinics, Braveman said. As the only institution locally with a nursing school as well as all other allied health fields, he noted, Nazareth will fit into the future model of health care as a continuum of care.
That structure should become even more necessary as the focus in health care increasingly turns to reducing costs across the entire system, Braveman said.
"Whatever happens to the health care law that currently exists, it's clear the future of medicine is going to be on a continuum of care that focuses on taking someone with an acute episode and providing them services in the community to make sure they don't go back into the hospital," he said.
The workforce preparation aspect of the partnership will have benefits for Unity as well, Braveman noted. It will allow doctors and other health care professionals at Unity to have a better understanding of the kind of care patients receive during the clinical phase.
This too is will be a departure from the often compartmentalized care of the past, he noted.
"Too often therapists work independent of each other," he said, "so if a patient has a stroke, they might need physical therapy, speech therapy and counseling. In a lot of places you see those things all happening independent of each other, but we need to see them working together."
Braveman said he believes the Nazareth-Unity partnership is the first of its kind and could become a model for other areas.
"What's interesting is that in other cities there are some programs at major hospitals that have tried to do this, but we don't know of any of it being done at a school like Nazareth with all the allied health fields and working with a hospital to integrate the two," he said. "We hope to become a model to show that this does reduce costs and inefficiencies and improves outcomes for patients."
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