CHC CEO Mark Masselli: PMI participation enables access for disadvantaged patients


Editor's Note: This article is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1 here.

Mark Masselli

National bodies haven’t always put the focus of attention on community health centers when it comes to large studies, says Mark Masselli, founder and CEO of Community Health Center Inc. But the Precision Medicine Initiative is giving such facilities the chance to be engaged in one of the largest efforts yet.

When CHC heard its name was on the list of six health centers tapped to participate in the PMI Cohort Program, everyone was very excited, Masselli tells FierceHealthIT.

“It’s a really seminal research project,” he says, “and we have been keeping an eye on the message [President] Obama has laid out around the value of doing this.”

Currently, CHC operates 200 locations in Connecticut, which primarily provide care to special populations that live in poverty. It’s a community that is extremely racially and ethnically diverse, according to Masselli.

CHC’s patients represents emerging populations and also historically disadvantaged populations, and it’s essential they are at the core of any efforts that advance care, he says.

“Why shouldn’t people who live in poverty ... why is it we haven’t focused on this population?” he says.

As part of the early trial for the PMI Cohort, CHC will help examine problems that may be faced as recruitment of patients starts, and how to scale the program up without facing barriers.

“We’re sort of guinea pigs,” Masselli says. “We’re going to be poked and prodded and really think critically about what is an enormously exciting opportunity.”

CHC isn’t new to research initiatives either; it has its own research arm called the Weitzman Institute.

The institute, Masselli says, is unique among health centers and engaged in a lot of work around improving science and how to make things work better in primary care settings.

CHC, he says, is set to hopefully start recruiting this month. It also is thinking about communication with patients and how to get them to volunteer in the initiative.

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Currently, Masselli sees there being a mixture of ways to reach out. That will include using mobile devices--about 65 percent of CHC’s patient population uses them--as well as through its patient portal.

“Wherever you are is how we want to deliver care, versus wherever we are,” he says.

As for getting patients involved excited about the project, Masselli says CHC will convey how consumers will have access to data to which they did not in the past.

“I won’t say [that access] has been denied to them, but if you look critically at the research work, the populations that we care for have not always been the focus of attention of the national bodies,” he says.

Much like David Goldstein at Columbia University Medical Center, another facility engaging in PMI efforts, Masselli also speaks to the ways in which the initiative will greatly improve upon how research traditionally has been done. It won’t just be claims data and some clinical data, he says, but genomic and proteomic information, as well as a full clinical picture of health.

In addition, Masselli praises the ability for consumers also to participate not through any organization, but as individuals.

“Let there be no closed door in people’s ability to participate in this initiative,” he says. “It’s a transformational opportunity for America.”