Reframing Patient-Centered as People-Centered, in New Jersey

In September 2015, Gobee began a year-long effort to coach a network of healthcare  safety net organizations across New Jersey on the design and innovation process. This coaching effort is a part of the New Jersey Innovation Catalyst Initiative led by the Center for Care Innovations with support from The Nicholson Foundation.

Paterson is a densely packed city of 150,000 in northern New Jersey less than 20 miles outside of Manhattan. It is one of the most diverse places you can visit in the United States. The city is home to major Dominican and Peruvian communities, and even hosts a Peruvian consulate. Little Istanbul in Paterson is an epicenter of Turkish life in America, and Arabs and Bangladeshis have been migrating to Paterson for several decades.

Paterson is also home to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, a hospital founded in 1867, when silk production was at its peak and when the nickname Silk City came to be. St Joseph’s continues to be a major part of the city’s fabric. Each year the emergency department at St. Joseph’s sees 168,000 visits, making it one of the busiest in the nation.

Two of the nine teams that Jaspal and Graham are coaching in the New Jersey Innovation Catalyst Initiative (NJICI) come from St. Joseph’s, with one team working in partnership with the Health Association of New Jersey (HANJ). After a three-day in-person kickoff training at the Newark Art Museum in September – with CCI, Nicholson, and gravitytank – during which Jaspal and Graham had an opportunity to meet each team in person, the Gobee team returned to New Jersey in October.

Between the training and the October visit the teams had three weeks to start integrating design methods and a design mentality to their innovation projects. (All while dealing with the threat of a major hurricane.) What we witnessed with the St. Joseph’s teams, and many of the others, was a shift in thinking. The teams are integrating the design tools into their work, but more importantly they are using the tools to imagine new models of healthcare.In the past few years, the industry has shifted its rhetoric to be more “patient-centered”, but with NJICI these teams are pushing the conversation further. Their focus is on people-centered and community-centered care.

What that means in Paterson is a role for St. Joseph’s that goes well beyond the hospital walls and that opens up the potential potential for new collaborations. More practically, it means that instead of just interviewing patients in the ED, one team went to a housing development to talk to people in their community. The premise of this work is that the health of individuals is distinctly tied to the health of their communities, and that caring for patient’s health must extend beyond the walls of hospitals and clinics.

This innovative mindset is the product of carefully selected teams with backing from leadership that is looking forward towards new models and approaches. The “Catalysts,” as each individual team member is called, were ready to discover new ways of problem-solving, with design serving as a mental model for creative problem-solving. Gobee is excited to track the progress of these teams over the next year, to see what each team creates, and how they can become a model for the rest of New Jersey, and for our country.


Written by Graham Gardner