GW Researchers Receive $23.8 Million to Improve HIV Prevention and Care

They will study an innovative healthcare model that integrates mobile tools and community health workers while lowering healthcare costs in the District.

September 5, 2014


Researchers at the George Washington University have been awarded an estimated $23.8 million grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to study a new healthcare model that aims to improve HIV prevention and care while lowering healthcare costs in Washington, D.C. More than 15,000 residents, or 2.4 percent of the District’s population, were living with HIV in 2012, according to a report from the D.C. Department of Health. 

To win the three-year award, the Milken Institute School of Public Health and the Rodham Institute in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) collaborated with more than 20 community partners. The partners include outreach organizations, clinical care systems, hospitals, the D.C. Department of Health and D.C. Health Care Finance.

The researchers will develop a shared Information Technology (IT) system that will provide Medicaid participants in the District of Columbia with preventive and chronic care services that are integrated across a range of settings.

Freya Spielberg, an associate professor of prevention and community health in the Milken Institute SPH and associate professor in SMHS, will lead the project.

“This offers an exciting opportunity to massively reduce the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in Washington, D.C.,” Dr. Spielberg said.  “We hope to create a new health system that uses mobile technologies, integrated IT systems and community health workers to make sure that D.C. residents have been educated, tested and treated successfully.”

The GW researchers and the community partners will use mobile health education, home testing and the integrated IT system in the hopes of making it easier for D.C. residents to find out more about their HIV and STI status.

The researchers will provide patients with mobile health tools to support health literacy, risk reduction and home testing. Community health workers will receive mobile tools they can use to better coordinate care for HIV infected people who have missed clinic appointments or medication refill visits. Such missed visits may be signs that patients are not receiving the primary care they need in order to prevent health complications and costly crisis care.

"This award represents a commitment to innovative, community-oriented care at its finest, especially in the District of Columbia where AIDS transmission rates are alarmingly high,” said Lynn R. Goldman, Michael and Lori Milken Dean of Public Health.  “As the only school of public health in the District, we look forward to collaborating with our many partners here to hopefully increase success rates and improve the lives of those in need."

The grant is part of the Health Care Innovation Awards announced recently by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS, which has awarded a total of $360 million to 39 awardees, including the research team at GW, which received the largest award to date. The CMS awardees will all be testing novel models that are designed to provide better health care at lower cost.

“The prevention of HIV and STIs and treatment of those with these infections are important areas of research and focus for GW. Through this research partnership, we hope to positively affect the incidence rate and treatment of HIV and STIs in Washington, D.C., and beyond,” said Vice President for Health Affairs and SMHS Dean Jeffrey S. Akman. “Providing new pathways for patient adherence to medication and disease prevention will enable health care providers to deliver care and ensure better patient outcomes.”

The model also will help community health workers as well as patients to create comprehensive care plans that can be integrated into electronic medical records. With such a care plan, providers will be able to easily check on a patient’s medical history and provide supportive care that is aimed at preventing infection in the first place or keeping viral loads in check.

After three years, the team hopes to have created a model system that could be adapted for other conditions and used in other places, especially cities where the rates of HIV infection and other health disparities are high.

More information about the project, including a list of all government and community partners, can be found here. Additional partners will be added as the project continues and expands.