HMH à 5: Transforming a vision into a mission


Hackensack University Health Network officially merged with Meridian Health five years ago on Thursday with the promise that the new entity – Hackensack Meridian Health – could change the landscape of health care in the state.

CEO Bob Garrett said he believes HMH has done this and more.

Hackensack Meridian CEO Bob Garrett and Governor Phil Murphy, center, shake hands at the 2018 Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine inauguration (HMH)

The merger helped create one of the state’s two mega healthcare systems – one that handled more than 2.5 million emergency department visits and admitted more than 700,000 patients to its 17 and more hospitals of 500 patient locations statewide.

Garrett said he was proud of those numbers, but believes the real influence of the system lies in three other accomplishments. In the five years since its creation, HMH has:

“We are delivering on our promise to transform healthcare delivery through innovation, technology and education,” said Garrett. “Thanks to our world-class team members, we have made extraordinary strides in making healthcare more affordable, accessible and convenient for the communities we serve. “

First degree from Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. (File photo)

Garrett said the three areas of growth prove his point. All of them, he said, show how HMH is changing the healthcare landscape, not just service delivery.

For Garrett, it starts at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, which prides itself on having students as diverse as the populations they will serve – as well as having a three-year path to residency in an effort to reduce costs (and loans).

The interdisciplinary education that the school emphasizes ensures that future physicians train with other future providers so that they are fit to work as a team, Garrett said. Research shows it improves results. And the community immersion program – where students are paired with people in underserved communities to cover aspects of care not traditionally addressed in medicine – is a role model for everyone, Garrett said.

“This medical school has exceeded all of my wildest dreams and expectations,” he said last month. “I think back to the vision we had and how it has always been linked to our mission: to transform healthcare.

“I believe you can’t transform health care unless you start from the beginning. You have to transform medical education – educate, train a new generation of physicians to truly meet the needs of the healthcare system and of society in the future. And I think we did.

Dr David Perlin at CDI. (File photo)

Garrett said the same distinctions apply to CDI, which opened in 2019 – and has shown its impact during the pandemic.

CDI developed one of the first commercial COVID-19 diagnostic tests, reducing the wait time from days to hours for a diagnosis. He also developed a rapid test for variants and a convalescent plasma therapy trial.

Dr David Perlin, scientific director of CDI, said at the time that creating the COVID-19 rapid test was what the center was designed for.

“This is why the CDI was created,” he said. “It was created to take people who are doing really innovative science and translate it very quickly for clinical application. This is what we do.

“This is a complete proof of concept that HMH CEO Bob Garrett had in mind when he said, ‘Let’s put science to work for our patients.’ This is why I came here and this is what I want to do.

Bob Garrett at the grand opening of the drug treatment center. (HMH)

Garrett believes the merger with Carrier Clinic is another way HMH sees the future.

In 2019, HMH opened the state’s first behavioral health emergency care center to give patients faster and more affordable access to emergency care, Garrett said.

In February, HMH opened the first part of a new state-of-the-art drug treatment center in Bergen County. At the time, Garrett said such a facility was what he envisioned when HMH merged with Carrier Clinic in 2018.

“This has been our vision for several years,” he said. “When we looked at the data, we found that many New Jersey residents were required to undergo drug treatment in other states because there were no first-class facilities here in New Jersey. We wanted to change that.

“And, when we merged the Carrier Clinic and Hackensack Meridian, we were able to take the vision and turn it into a plan.”

Trying to put it all into perspective is difficult, Garrett said.

The system has attempted to quantify it, however. Garrett said HMH was responsible for a community contribution of $ 2 billion.

It’s a number, Garrett said, HMH is looking to increase.

“We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, but we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said. “Together, we will continue to provide the most innovative and compassionate care to our communities, now and for decades to come.”


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