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How Does Your Work in Health Services Create Impact?

“How” is a really important question. As researchers in Health Services, we often focus all of our work on the “what” and forget about the “how.” What do we do to solve a problem? What groups are at the highest risk? What policies are up for debate?

At this year’s Academy Health Annual Research Meeting, our industry was challenged to think through how each of us could create impact. The conversation started with Sachin Jain, the keynote speaker, who asked how we focus on the local relevance of our work. Lisa Simpson, Academy Health president, also challenged us to think about how we are building a foundation for the future of health care.

From “Making Research Stick” to “Storytelling Superhero”, RTI is on a quest to define and implement the “how.” At the 2019 event in Washington, D.C, we asked attendees to tell us how their research applied to the following broader policy areas: Shared decision making, Treating Everyone Equitably, Improving Quality, Climbing Costs, and Keeping Populations Healthy. Understanding where and how research is applied is critical to moving the best ideas forward.

In our work at RTI, we provide value in two ways. We identify best practices through rigorous evaluation, and we turn those practices into action by addressing how to implement these big ideas. Through our work with alternative payment models like Medicare’s Shared Savings Program and Comprehensive Primary Care Plus Initiative, among others, we’re helping policymakers address not just the “what” of health services, but the “how.” For example, how advances in health information technology (health IT) help providers close gaps in care sooner.

How can we continue the momentum of our research and increase impact? When it comes to health IT, a few ideas come to mind. In one plenary session discussing the 10th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, policymakers looked back on the progress we’ve made in advancing health IT. We should continue our momentum and build on policies that facilitate health information exchange—making sure stakeholders across the continuum, from public health agencies to payers, have access to health information they need when they need it. We should continue evaluating technology-based interventions, such as telehealth and clinical decision support, and telling stories about how these technologies improve patients’ lives. We should continue promoting lessons learned from value-based care models—demonstrating how providers use social determinants of health data to identify high risk patients.

So, let’s think of our research not just as researchers, but as policymakers, as storytellers, as managers and executives, and ultimately, as patients. As we continue to test new models of care and new technologies, understanding the roles we play and the stories we need to tell are critical to getting us to better health in 2025, and beyond.

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Shellery Ebron (Research Health IT Scientist) and Catherine Hersey to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.