3 Things Shaping Health Research and Care

By Matt Duncan | @mattduncan5

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 HMO Research Networks (HMORN) conference, the elite congregation of the brightest and most innovative in health research. Geisinger, Group Health, and 16 other high-performing health care systems in the U.S. participated in this knowledge exchange. I soaked in everything possible at the three-day conference, even some radiant California sun. There were 3 reoccurring themes that surprised me about the direction of health research and care.

“Learning Healthcare” Starts with Innovation

“Disruptive innovation”, “learn from small failures”, “if something doesn’t work, then you pivot”. Was this Eric Reis speaking at MIT’s EmTech Digital? No, these were conversations around a learning healthcare system. Defined by “the process of discovery as a natural outgrowth of patient care”, this type of system ensures “innovation, quality, safety, and value in healthcare”. To have a true learning healthcare system, you must:

1. Form partnerships across the organization, including those in clinical, research, and administration
2. Prioritize your improvements
3. Know when a project has run its course

Much like a round-table discussion between Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Elan Monk, health leaders Dr. Jonathan Darer, Chief Innovation Officer at Geisinger, Dr. Robert Reid, Director of Research Translation at Group Health, and Dr. Nirav Shah, COO of Clinical Operations at KP Southern California are focused on innovation. They were clear – there is a new, refreshing approach to healthcare driven by innovation, transparency, value, and certainly one that builds a bridge between traditional research and care delivery. A grand promise, but with their dedication, I believe these leaders can usher in the next generation of healthcare. By the positive response in the room, others felt the same.

“Understanding how new interventions and care delivery innovations actually affect people in every day care settings outside controlled experimental settings is important for policy makers and regional administrators to base decisions,”
~ Dr. Robert Reid, Director of Research Translation, Group Health

Research is Reaching Patients

The HMORN conference kicked off with an expert panel which told us that, “It takes 17 years to turn 14% of original research to the benefit of patient care.” 17 years. Pretty daunting statistic. However, this timeframe seems to be decreasing.

“It takes 17 years to turn 14% of original research to the benefit of patient care.” {Click to tweet}

For example, Dr. Alyce Adams, Section Chief of Healthcare Delivery & Policy at KP Northern California, Division of Research, is running a longitudinal diabetes research study looking at group-based behavioral intervention to improve health management skills. This complex study uses technology to electronically enroll and gather consent, survey over the phone, and conduct an interactive follow up. Interestingly, if a patient does not meet their goals within the study, their data is immediately flagged for the physician, and action is taken within 48 hours.  A great example of how research is beginning to play a real-time role in individual patient care.

Solving Data Management Problems

There are very few industries where the collection, analyzing, and sharing of data is not a challenge. In healthcare, strict regulations and privacy laws only makes it more difficult. Walking through the poster session at the conference, it became apparent how important it is for health organizations to solve data management struggles. One poster in particular – by Alanna Kulchak-Rahm, PhD, Clinical Investigator at Geisinger’s Genomic Medicine Institute – showcased one method: integrating a diagnostic decision support system with Epic, an electronic health record (EHR) system. Kulchak-Rahm outlined an innovative approach for extracting data from unstructured clinical data, so physicians can make sense of it. Additional work is currently underway to optimize, but improvements are beginning to be seen in regards to reduced data errors, duplicate work, and provider time saved.

What’s next?

Research is becoming embedded into healthcare delivery.  It’s great to see scientific minds thinking about how to effectively use technology and policy innovators with ambitions to change healthcare as we know it. Just how innovative is your health system when it comes to researching a cure for you and your loved ones? Where are you seeing health research and care innovation today? Do you think “learning healthcare” is achievable in our lifetime? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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