Stakeholder collaboration, the gateway to patient-centered care

Eric NormanLEAPS, News

Dr Gigi Hirsch speaks in the Frances Hamburger Institute for Community Rheumatology (FHI) Inaugural Stakeholder Virtual Roundtable Webinar

Summary courtesy of Frances Hamburger Institute for Community Rheumatology (FHI). Download the full Webinar report. 

On Friday, June 19, 2020, the Frances Hamburger Institute for Community Rheumatology (FHI) held its Inaugural Stakeholder Virtual Roundtable Webinar.  Originally intended as an in-person event, with the purpose of outlining a business plan, identifying gaps and areas of high unmet need, as well as prioritizing actions for the upcoming year, the panel discussion was quickly shuttered in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.  As the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in every corner of the country, especially the healthcare system, the FHI decided that it was imperative to address how stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem were responding and adapting to COVID-19’s impact.  As such, the FHI invited leading stakeholders within the rheumatology community encompassing:  biomedical innovation, data science, diagnostics, government policy, mental health, patient advocacy, payers, physicians, providers and research to come together in a virtual setting, and move forward with this pertinent conversation.  

With its reconstituted and refocused agenda, the FHI’s inaugural roundtable sought to find a collaborative approach, with each stakeholder, to better identify and implement ways to find, manage and treat their patients, effectively and safely, in this challenging and unprecedented healthcare landscape.

To accomplish this goal, the FHI established the following objectives:
•    Understand the impact of Covid-19 on the field of rheumatology
•    Identify areas of stakeholder collaboration to solve and address challenges
•    Publish white papers with detailed analysis of the roundtable’s findings and recommendations that lend themselves to actionable steps for the improvement of rheumatic patients’ treatment and care.

By concentrating on these objectives, FHI’s roundtable panel identified five key areas of focus integral to patient care quality, satisfaction, efficacy and efficiency:  Quality Access, Telemedicine/Telehealth, Cost, Patient-centered care, and Mental Health.  In turn, the information gained from the discussions on these key areas will allow FHI to foster and support initiatives, policies and research geared to improving the patient’s journey from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care to recovery.

Stakeholder Collaboration, the Gateway to Patient-Centered Care

Transition to a patient-centered healthcare system requires collaboration across the industry’s stakeholders.  Dr. Gigi Hirsch, MD, Executive Director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation spearheads collaborative system innovation through her NEWDIGS Initiative and its LEAPS Project.  “I have broad clinical (Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Psychiatry) and industry (commercial strategy in biopharmaceuticals) backgrounds, and a longstanding passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, and improving patient outcomes,” says Dr. Hirsch.  “My conclusion from sitting in all those different seats is that the healthcare system is just broken.  And I am dedicating my energies to improving this ecosystem.”

Dr. Hirsch created the NEWDIGS Initiative to improve how we develop and deliver new, effective and affordable drugs to patients.  “NEWDIGS is an acronym for New Drug Development Paradigms,” explains Dr. Hirsch.  “It is a ‘think and do tank’ for collaborative systems innovation where we work with different stakeholders from across the value chain including biopharma companies, the FDA, public and private payers, provider systems, clinicians, patients and researchers among others.  The focus of our work is to drive more value faster to patients, in ways that work for all stakeholders.”

A major focus of Dr. Hirsch’s work, currently, is on the NEWDIGS LEAPS Project (Learning Ecosystems Accelerator for Patient-centered, Sustainable Innovation).  “The goal of LEAPS is to get the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, and to re-engineer the system to make that the norm,” explains Dr. Hirsch.  “There are three cornerstones to our approach to designing this learning system: (1) Define the collaborative space for real-world evidence production. (2) Create new platform infrastructures to drive efficiency, scale and sustainability for continuous learning. (3) Align new and better incentives that make it easier for everyone to do the right things for patients.  Our first pilot focused on Rheumatoid Arthritis.  After two-and-a-half-years, we have built a wonderful collaborator community of over a hundred collaborators, multiple different stakeholders and it continues to grow and diversify.  It is hard work, but, I truly believe collaboration is the only way to get system changes to happen in ways that are both patient-centered and sustainable.” 


American healthcare, in its current state, faces many challenges that remain a looming issue in need of urgent attention, actionable strategies and sustainable solutions that provide for the diverse needs of every patient. The FHI’s first annual Stakeholder Roundtable communed to identify areas where change could be instigated to transform the rheumatic and autoimmune healthcare ecosystem.  The FHI stakeholders determined that Quality Access, Telemedicine/Telehealth, Cost, Patient-centered care, and Mental Health integration aligned with their interests and would benefit from initiatives aimed at promoting the implementation and adoption of these integral components of healthcare.  Ultimately, the FHI’s objective is to reshape the patient’s experience and ensure that they have access to reliable, high-quality care.

For more information on the Frances Hamburger Institute go to

Panel Participants


  • Dr. Alan Epstein, MD, Clinical Professor at Penn Medicine, Partner at Pennsylvania Rheumatology Associates
  • Dr. Liana Fraenkel, MD, Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, Director, Patient Centered Population Health Services at Berkshire Health Systems
  • Dr. Max Hamburger, MD, FACP, Managing Partner of Rheumatology Associates of Long Island, Founder, Executive Chairman, and Chief Medical Officer, United Rheumatology
  • Dr. Lisa Christopher-Stine, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine and Neurology, Director of the Johns Hopkins Myositis Center


  • Dr. Linda Schultz, PharmD, Vice President, Clinical and Client Success, AllazoHealth
  • Dr. Deborah Hammond, MD Vice President, Medical Director at Healthfirst
  • Dr. Kjel Johnson, PharmD, Vice President, Specialty Strategy and Client Solutions, CVS Health, Board Member FHI
  • Margaret “Peggy” Johnson, Healthcare Consultant, Former Chief Pharmacy Officer, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield New Jersey

Patient Advocacy

  • Seth Ginsberg, Co-Founder and Chairman Global Healthy Living Foundation, Co-Founder and President of TGI Healthworks

Government Policy

  • James Scott, President and CEO of Applied Policy
  • Dr. Angus Worthing, MD, Partner at Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, Former Chair of Government Affairs Committee at the American College of Rheumatology


  • Chip Parkinson, Executive Vice President, Payer Markets and Reimbursements, Myriad Genetics

Expert in Healthcare Data Science

  • Joseph E. Couto, PharmD, MBA, Senior Director, Specialty Program Evaluation and Outcomes, CVS Health

Biomedical Innovation

  • Dr. Gigi Hirsch, MD, Executive Director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation

Mental Health Professional

  • Dr. Marci Reiss, DSW, LCSW, Co-Founder Wellness Institute, Director of Behavioral Health, CEO, Supported Patient, Founder and President IBD Support Foundation

Healthcare Law

  • Mathew Shatzkes, Partner, Corporate Practice Group


  • Gerard Maher, SVP, United Rheumatology, Board Member FHI
  • Esther Krofah, Executive Director, Milken Institute, FasterCures

Download the full Webinar report.