For too long, health services researchers—that is, academics, (usually PhDs and MDs) who study how the healthcare system works—and those who work in healthcare management have operated independently of one another.
Healthcare executives and health services researchers exist mostly live in blissful ignorance of one another. Even academic medical center departments focused on health services research are most often focused on academic publication of findings and are often disconnected from the day-to-day operations of the organization. In fact, most health plans and health systems do not even have internal R&D functions.
I believe this represents a missed opportunity and a divide that we should aspire to close. Health researchers working inside and in tandem with health care organizations have the opportunity to drive, shape, and inform evidence-based, data-driven management decisions that can meaningfully improve the health of the communities in which we work and live.
The work of changing health systems is hard and complex and political and too fraught with consensus-driven decision making in areas where it is clear what needs to be done. We need researchers to be the voice of conscience and help science and data inform our moral imperatives.
This a strategy I’ve executed a few times to good effect. When I led CareMore Health (recently rebranded Carelon Health), we partnered with Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues at Harvard Medical School to study the effects of an insulin cost initiative we launched to to drive broader access to insulin. Emboldened by the results of our study, we persisted with the strategy.