We’re fortunate that HCSRN researchers represent a breadth and depth of disciplinary expertise including epidemiology, behavioral science, biostatistics, and health services.  The AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting is the nation’s leading forum for health services research and we will be well-represented at this year’s gathering in Boston. 

As I assembled a complete list of our members’ presentations, I was struck by the wonderful diversity of topics. Our researchers are tackling some of the most vexing issues in health care organization, financing, and delivery, and there’s no better time, given the unrelenting national focus on strategies to address cost, quality, and patient experience—the familiar triple aim.

In reflecting on both the heterogeneity and relevance of our work, I recalled Aaron Carroll’s (fairly) recent article on “quiet research” in which he describes the achievements of the Diabetes Prevention Program.  Carroll, who is one of the contributors to the New York Times Upshot series on health care writes,

“Articles appear every day on ‘major breakthroughs,’ which later never pan out, while this one, full of successes, rarely made the news. This is the curse of health services research, which seeks to improve population health through improvements in access or delivery of care.”

While I’m not inclined to concur that health services research is “cursed,” I do agree with his assertion that it’s not super-splashy to think through de-implementation strategies for low-value care, or how to optimize care coordination for patients with multiple co-morbidities.  But these are exactly the kinds of studies that will help chip away at our fragmented, uncoordinated, and costly health care system.  Carroll likens health services research to hitting singles rather than home runs, and observes that while there may not be a Nobel Prize in the offing, these studies are more likely than most to change the health care experience for many Americans.

HCSRN researchers are contributing to more than 20 sessions at AcademyHealth, including both concurrent sessions and posters. Drs. Alyce Adams from DOR and Rob Penfold from GHRI are chairing timely session on methods for researching heath disparities and statistical methods for space-time surveillance. If you’re in Boston amid the record 2700 attendees, I hope you get a chance to connect with our terrific colleagues as they string together base hits that will eventually change the game.