Research-Backed Policy Recommendations to Improve Healthcare Delivery

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The mission of the Regenstrief Institute is to improve health and healthcare, locally, regionally, and around the world through innovation and applied research into a range of critical issues facing our healthcare system and the health of people and populations. We do this by leveraging our nearly 50-years of experience and expertise in biomedical informatics, health services research, implementation science and aging research.

When, with our partners, we make discoveries or develop new approaches, we recognize that publishing the results is not where our work ends. Research findings must be disseminated, implemented, and ultimately translated into practice if they are to have the expected impact. While there are many ways to translate such discoveries, one avenue is influencing policies and pushing for changes to enhance how healthcare is delivered. It is not unusual for new solutions to fail because of inadequate or conflicting policies and processes. Addressing these challenges should be based on evidence whenever possible.

As a result, our Regenstrief clinicians and scientists often lead policy-related activities to ensure improvements in care. Below are five policy recommendations backed by Institute research that represent just a few examples of how we’ve collaborated and counseled policymakers in Indiana, nationally, and even internationally.

Improve Dementia Care Support from Medicare

A recent article in Health Affairs by Malaz Boustani, M.D., is serving as a rallying cry for the creation of a new Medicare reimbursement model for individuals with dementia, and their caregivers. Dr. Boustani and colleagues are calling for increased payment for services offered through collaborative care models that benefit both patient and caregiver.

Collaborative care models are team-based and provide holistic care for the patient. Dr. Boustani and his team have implemented the highly effective Aging Brain Care model for nearly 10 years at Eskenazi Health, saving thousands of dollars per patient, per year while drastically improving the lives of caregivers.

If Dr. Boustani’s proposed changes are enacted, Medicare reimbursement could bring about higher quality dementia care and much needed support for caregivers.

Avoid Unnecessary Hospitalizations for Nursing Home Residents

The OPTIMISTIC project led by Kathleen Tschantz Unroe, M.D., has sounded a similar call. Over the past seven years, OPTIMISTIC has reduced avoidable hospitalizations and saved costs for Medicare. She’s achieved these goals by building an impressive coalition, seating healthcare academics alongside state policymakers, business owners and more.

Her coalition’s work in proving the efficacy of this model has already had an impact in Indiana’s state policies and I’m excited to see its impact grow as she launches Care Revolution, Inc., a business that is a continuation of this project.

High Deductible Healthcare Plans Can Reduce Preventive Services

In recent years, Nir Menachemi, PhD, and his colleagues have published a review of the literature on high deductible healthcare plans. They’ve cautioned us that while these plans save the healthcare system dollars due to the reduction of utilization, they do so by reducing the use of all services, including the use of beneficial preventive health services that could help prevent the use of costlier health services in the future.

Integrate Measurement Based Care in Psychiatry Practice

Kurt Kroenke, M.D., collaborated in a review in JAMA Psychiatry last month, which offers a 10-point research agenda to overcome barriers to integration of measurement-based care (MBC) into practice. MBC is the systematic evaluation of patient symptoms before or during a health encounter to inform behavioral treatment. MBC has demonstrated the ability to enhance care, but is underutilized.

Better Align Clinical Care and Research

In addition, I co-authored a paper from the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) that was published in JAMIA Open suggesting new policies to help the U.S. accelerate efforts to better align clinical research and clinical care to optimize our national investment in health information technology. The paper makes more than a dozen recommendations for public policies to facilitate the generation of medical evidence now that adoption of electronic health records (EHR) is widespread.

A great amount of health data exists, but the ability to leverage this data to increase our knowledge of health and disease and drive improvements in care remains overwhelmingly under realized. That must change.

Again, these are just a few examples of Regenstrief’s involvement in the policy arena. They serve as excellent signposts for the expanded impact that our work as academics can have as we advocate for policy based on sound evidence.

Peter Embi, M.D. is president and CEO of Regenstrief Institute. Located in Indianapolis, Regenstrief Institute is a medical research organization and thought leader that works locally, nationally and globally to improve health and health care. Visit Regenstrief.org.