Today’s health care landscape is dominated by discussions of access for all patients, health system and insurer consolidation and health care costs. Lowering the cost of health care is a key mandate of virtually every strategic plan and a goal of every corporate leader.
Our unique approach to patient-centered care at National Jewish Health is focused on reducing the long-term costs of caring for the chronically ill by bringing physicians and providers from multiple specialties together and giving them the time and tools necessary to identify the correct diagnosis and to customize treatment to the unique needs of the individual patient. In a longitudinal study of patients over 18 months, chronically ill patients with respiratory disease, seen at National Jewish Health, experienced a 50 percent drop in emergency room visits and an 83 percent decline in hospitalizations after initiating care.
Current reimbursement practices are not yet sophisticated enough to consider these cost savings in the design of compensation policies. In 2018, National Jewish Health saw significant reimbursement cuts from both Medicare and Colorado Medicaid. Making matters worse, in the spring of 2018, Medicaid recouped payments for patient accounts dating back to 2016. As a result, though patient volumes and the growth of our Respiratory Institutes around the country grew substantially, net outpatient service revenue on the main health campus declined by $2.8 million.
Our strategic focus on the diversification of our revenue base proved very successful in mitigating the impact of these reimbursement declines. Our joint ventures with Saint Joseph Hospital | SCL Health, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Jefferson Health generated $17.2 million, a 132 percent increase over FY 2017.
The joint ventures contributed significantly to our ability to care for patients by providing access to the full continuum of care and allowing patients from around the country to receive continuing care closer to home.
Thanks to our committed, loyal donors, we received $33.5 million in charitable contributions, the largest amount in our history. These gifts make our mission possible, enabling ongoing expansion and support of patient care and cuttingedge research in areas such as genomics, lung injury and repair, COPD, infectious disease, and severe asthma and allergies.
Research funding increased $1.6 million or 3 percent. Several large research grants were awarded during the year, including a seven-year $5.8 million grant to study acute lung injury, which includes studies in the intensive care unit at Saint Joseph Hospital; a $1.2 million grant to reduce childhood asthma disparities for the Navajo Nation; and another large grant to study nontuberculous mycobacterial disease in the Hawaiian Islands.
Combined, total revenues increased $19.8 million or 7.6 percent. Due largely to the increasing cost of pharmaceuticals, faculty recruitment, expanded research grants and general inflation, expenses increased 4 percent year-over-year. The financial rating agencies have taken note of our financial diversification and ongoing growth. In February, Fitch Ratings upgraded National Jewish Health to BBB from BB+.
As we move into fiscal 2019, we continue to look for opportunities to strengthen our financial position by growing our clinical programs, increasing our research funding and further diversifying our revenue base. We also are actively working with government officials, elected representatives, payors and employers to reduce the cost of caring for the chronically ill while enhancing the health of patients with respiratory, cardiac and immune-related diseases.
Overview of Revenue and Expenditures