Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Commentary: Translational Research for Actuaries

This is the first of a series of four blog postings summarizing issues, methods and results from current research in the Center for Value in Healthcare. We will be presenting a JSPH Forum entitled “Translating Research into Policy and Practice” on January 11, 2012 with more details of the Center’s work.

Rob Lieberthal, PhD
Faculty, Jefferson School of Population Health

I will be talking about my research project funded by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) at the JSPH Center for Value in Healthcare Forum on January 11, 2012. The project is “Validating the PRIDIT method for determining hospital quality with outcomes data.” The goal of our project is to determine hospital quality using publicly available Hospital Compare data.

After funding the project, the SOA organized a project oversight group, comprised of practicing actuaries volunteering to serve the profession by supervising our research project. Actuaries are the professionals who are responsible for calculating and managing the cost of health insurance. They have always played a crucial role in benefit design. In the era of managed care, that has meant more and more involvement in creating and managing provider networks.

Given their professional interest, the oversight group was intrigued by my prior findings and was interested in using these findings to reduce cost and increase quality. I explained that, from my perspective, one of the barriers to putting my results into practice was that healthcare professionals did not seem interested in using my results. Their feedback was that my method might be inaccessible, even to a group as mathematically inclined as actuaries.

As a result of our discussions, our work has become literally translational: they are helping me translate my work from my language into theirs. If we can pair actionable results on hospital quality with an instruction book for how to use the PRIDIT method, we can increase the chance that actuaries put our findings and our methodology into practice.

I have previously noted that actuaries could be the ideal group to bridge healthcare quality and safety data with financial and nonfinancial incentives. This could drive patient behavior and improve population health. This is very much a work in progress, so stay tuned for an update from me on January 11, 2012!

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