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Startup Working to Improve Pediatric Healthcare in New Jersey

a young boy high fives a doctor

Startup Working to Improve Pediatric Healthcare in New Jersey

Open City Labs (OCL), a Rev member company since 2018, has achieved a pivotal milestone in its mission to improve people’s wellbeing by strengthening the connections among healthcare providers and social services.

The healthcare tech company is partnering with Hackensack Meridian Health (HMHM), the largest healthcare system in New Jersey, on a project designed to advance the work of New Jersey Integrated Care for Kids (NJ InCK), an initiative to use technology to improve the health and wellbeing of the state’s most vulnerable children.

The social determinants of health, such as food and housing, are the main factors that shape health outcomes. However, the current lack of standardization in the healthcare system – along with the inability of relevant organizations to share essential information – leaves both families and providers in the dark about the full picture of patients’ health. And, at the same time, it imposes burdensome paperwork and complex eligibility requirements on patients that make it more difficult for them to access services.

“It’s pretty straight-forward,” said Matt Bishop, CEO and founder of Open City Labs. “A lot of different programs are available to help children and families, but they can’t deliver coordinated, integrated services if their communications systems literally cannot talk to each other. By connecting children and families to services and providers to one another, we enable healthcare and human service providers to deliver better care.”   

NJ InCK aims to improve care coordination and inform families about healthcare and social services using a comprehensive, integrated system. That’s where OCL’s software comes in.

The company’s solution streamlines eligibility assessments, enrollment processes and referrals to clinical and social services, while tracking patients’ interactions with those services and noting their care outcomes.

The innovative platform improves the model for pediatric care by allowing providers to systematically integrate and coordinate their various services. Both patients and providers can access electronic health records across systems. 

Through OCL’s system, providers can offer better care with a greater understanding of patients’ needs, not only related to healthcare but also encompassing the social determinants. The NJ InCK initiative will result in earlier detection of children whose health and social risk factors make them more likely to experience trauma that can have long-lasting health impacts into adulthood. By finding opportunities to connect these families to services that could reduce/prevent childhood trauma, NJ InCK aims to improve health outcomes for New Jersey’s children.

Additionally, the software incorporates and expands upon a community resource directory from the nonprofit NJ 211, a statewide information and referral service funded by the United Way. Based on health assessments to determine their needs, patients are connected to a personalized list of health and human services resources.

“In order to deliver the best care for patients in any community, we need a comprehensive picture of the clinical and human services that serve that community,” said Bishop. “Our federated directory model grew out of the desire to build on existing community assets, like NJ 211’s database. By meeting providers where they are and not taking them out of each system of record, we make it easier to connect patients to the services they need and to close the referral loop.”

Open City Labs collaborated with MayJuun, another healthcare tech company, to make health assessments available in different languages and on various mobile devices, thereby improving accessibility to the technology.

With the help of OCL’s software, NJ InCK can address the social determinants of health and improve the health and wellness of at-risk children.

Led by HMHM, the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey, and the NJ Health Care Quality Institute, the NJ InCK initiative is part of a $15.8 million, seven-year agreement between HMHM and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

In addition to advancing NJ InCK’s work, OCL’s solutions have potential benefits beyond a single project in a single state. “The fact is that the problems we are working to solve in partnership with NJ InCK are hindering progress for children and families across our country,” said Bishop. “So we’ve very deliberately designed our technology so it’s not only scalable, but is also highly adaptable to other jurisdictions and circumstances.”