Category Archives: Research & Analysis

Oct 16 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Ebola safeguards, pay-for-performance, brain development and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

PBS NewsHour interviews Howard Markel, MD, PhD, FAAP, on whether hospitals, doctors and nurses are sufficiently prepared to handle Ebola cases in the United States, and what measures should be taken to increase safety. “As someone who studies epidemics, there’s always lots of fear, scapegoating and blame,” Markel, an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, said. “American tolerance for anything less than perfection has only shortened. The incredible thing to focus on is that so little has happened, so few cases have spread here.” The video is available here and an accompanying article is available here. Markel is also quoted in an Ebola story in the New Republic and wrote a blog for the Huffington Post.

In an article for Forbes magazine, RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Peter Ubel, MD, discusses whether pay-for-performance health care models can lead to overdiagnosis and overuse of antibiotics. He cites recent journal articles suggesting that sepsis may be over diagnosed in hospitals because the institutions receive higher reimbursements for sepsis patients than for those with milder infections. “In other words, it pays not to miss sepsis diagnoses,” Ubel writes. “Because of the inherent subjectivity of medical diagnoses, those groups that assess health care quality need to remain on the alert for the unintended consequences of their measures. And those insurers and regulators eager to establish clinical care mandates? They need to slow down and make sure their administrative fixes do not create undue side effects.” Ubel also wrote a separate Forbes article on health insurance turnover.

Recent research on children who began life in overcrowded Romanian orphanages shows that early childhood neglect is associated with changes in brain structure, Science Times reports. A study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Margaret Sheridan, PhD, finds that children who spent their early years in Romanian orphanages have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention, providing support for a link between the early environment and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Researchers compared brain scans from 58 children who spent at least some time in institutions with scans of 22 non-institutionalized children from nearby communities, all between the ages of 8 and 10. The article notes that the study is among the first to document how social deprivation in early life affects the thickness of the cortex.

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Sep 22 2014
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Young Adults Offer Suggestions to Improve HealthCare.gov

Charlene A. Wong, MD, is a pediatrician and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  

Charlene Wong

“This plan is $20 to see a primary doctor, and this one is 10 percent coinsurance after deductible—and I just don’t understand that.  What is the deductible to see my primary doctor?” asked a 29-year-old uninsured Philadelphian as she shopped for health insurance on HealthCare.gov in February. 

As she tried to make sense of the plans being offered to her, she realized—as most people who have chosen a health insurance plan for themselves or their families know—that health insurance is complicated.  This young woman found the process particularly challenging and overwhelming as she was choosing her own health insurance for the first time. Though she wished “a good plan could be recommended for me, based on my needs,” she did ultimately select a new health insurance plan on HealthCare.gov.

She was one of 33 young adults, ranging from 19 to 30, who participated in our study at the University of Pennsylvania from January to March 2014.  The study explored the young adult user experience with the federal health insurance exchange website.  We asked these so called “young invincibles” to focus not on the technical failures of the website, which were being covered and criticized extensively by the media, but rather on how the website could be improved to better support them in choosing a health insurance plan that was right for them.  

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Sep 18 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Antibiotic overuse, sexual assault nurse examiners, diaper banks, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Anthony So, MD, MPA, co-authors a piece in the News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) about the need to reduce the overuse of antibiotics, in both humans and animals. Overuse accelerates the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of human antibiotic use and much animal antibiotic use is unnecessary, the article says. So calls for public policies that create incentives for farmers to decrease use of antibiotics and that limit antibiotic use in animals to disease treatment, rather than growth-promotion or as a substitute for hygiene and infection-control.

In Chicago, most children with asthma or food allergies do not have a health management form on file at school, leaving their schools without information they might need in emergencies, according to a study by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH that was covered by Reuters Health. Researchers analyzed 2012-13 school year data on more than 400,000 Chicago schoolchildren, including 18,287 with asthma and 4,250 with a food allergy. Only a quarter of the asthmatic students and half of those with a food allergy had a health management plan on file. The study was also covered by The Chicago Tribune, Fox News, The Baltimore Sun, and Red Orbit, among other outlets.

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars alumna Angela Frederick Amar, PhD, RN, FAAN, publishes an op-ed on Talking Points Memo about the report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, Not Alone. Amar notes that effective response to campus sexual assault should include medical care for survivors, and that Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are trained to tend to the medical and emotional needs of survivors and collect forensic evidence. In other institutions with high rates of sexual violence, such as the military, SANEs are considered an essential part of treatment for victims of sexual violence, Amar writes.

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Sep 11 2014
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Recent Research About Nursing, September 2014

This is part of the September 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

Lower Hospitalization Rates Linked to Broader NP Scope of Practice

New research correlating state-by-state hospitalization rates with state policies on nurse practitioner (NP) scope of practice offers a revealing conclusion: Medicare and Medicaid patients are less likely to require hospitalization in states that allow NPs a broader scope of practice.

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing examined hospitalization data from a range of sources that sorted data by state, and then compared it with American Association of Nurse Practitioners data on state laws and regulations governing NP scope of practice. They found “a significant relationship between full practice of NPs and decreased hospitalization rates of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the United States and improved health outcomes of states.”

The researchers caution that the data do not prove a causal relationship between scope of practice and hospitalization rates, but write, “Our findings support the increasing call of facilitating Advanced Practice Registered Nurses [APRNs] to fulfill their full scope of practice in providing access and care to patients without direct or indirect supervision from physicians. The outcomes support the Institute of Medicine recommendation that APRNs practice to their full scope of practice including functioning as primary care providers.”

The study was published online by Nursing Outlook on August 4, 2014.

Read an abstract of the study or a news article on it in McKnight’s.

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Sep 4 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: The nursing shortage, ADHD, meaningful online communications and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

NBC 2 (Buffalo, New York) interviewed Carol S. Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN, co-director of RWJF’s RN Work Project, for a story about the nursing shortage and job prospects for nurses early in their careers. “We are not seeing as much demand for brand new graduates,” Brewer said. However, the anticipated retirement of many older nurses and the increasing demand for health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act could combine to create a 19-percent increase in demand for nurses in the near future, Brewer said. In the meantime, she suggests that new nurses be willing to relocate and look for nursing jobs in rural communities, where demand is greater.

It is important to keep media and public focus on the Affordable Care Act, Jake Haselswerdt, PhD, an RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research, tells the Independent Voters Network website, because some states are still blocking full implementation of the law. “In order for the more stubborn states to move forward with implementation and expanding care, there may need to be some continued pressure,” he said. “That’s going to require the media to pay attention to the big disparities that are emerging between states that tried to implement the law and those that resisted.”

Tina Bloom, PhD, RN, an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, led training for nurses in Columbia, Missouri, aimed at helping them identify the risk factors and symptoms of domestic violence, and then to support victims, ABC17 News reports. The training is consistent with preventive care provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the article says. Among other things, Bloom teaches nurses to look for certain types of injuries and for issues in patients’ medical histories that do not make sense.

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Aug 28 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Medical marijuana’s unanticipated benefits, infant sleep pods, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

States that have legalized medical marijuana have seen nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from overdoses involving prescription painkillers than states that have not, according to a study led by Marcus Bachhuber, MD. ABC News reports on it, noting that 23 states and the District of Columbia have such laws. Researchers found that while opioid overdose rates continued to climb, the increase was much slower in states with medical marijuana laws, resulting in 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdose. “This study raises the possibility that there is an unintended public health benefit of medical marijuana laws, but we still need to collect more information to confirm or refute what we’ve found,” says Bachhuber, an RWJF/Veterans Administration Clinical Scholar at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Outlets covering Bachhuber’s study include CNN, Washington Post, Business Insider, Health Day and Vox.

An infant “sleep pod” designed by Jennifer Doering, PhD, RN, is one of 11 projects funded through new grants from the University of Wisconsin Extension and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The $25,000 Ideadvance grants are intended to move good ideas more quickly to the marketplace. Doering’s I-SleepPod, developed as a result of her work in the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program, would allow an infant to sleep next to an adult while remaining safe, thanks in part to an alarm that wakes the adult in the event of an unsafe sleeping position. “We designed the sleep pod to minimize hazards because, if we don’t move in that direction of reducing sleep-related infant deaths, then [society] is essentially saying it’s acceptable to have 600 babies die every year that way,” Doering said.

Nutrition rating systems in supermarkets may encourage shoppers to purchase less junk food, according to a study led by John Cawley, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumnus and Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient. The study coupled sales data from Hannaford Supermarkets in the northeastern United States from January 2005 to December 2007 with the Guiding Stars nutritional rating system. The ratings system assigns zero to three stars to food items, based on their nutritional value. Researchers found that sales of less healthy foods—such as highly processed snack foods—fell by 8.31 percent when branded with a low nutrition rating, while healthy food purchases rose by 1.39 percent, Medical Xpress reports.

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Aug 14 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Ebola fears, ER closures and mortality, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Bringing two American medical volunteers infected with the Ebola virus back to the United States for treatment triggered some criticism, particularly on social media. But Susan Mitchell Grant, MS, RN, CNAA-BC, who is treating the two patients at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, writes that the criticism is “unfounded and reflect[s] a lack of knowledge about Ebola and our ability to safely manage and contain it.... We are caring for these patients because it is the right thing to do,” she says in a Washington Post op-ed. “Ebola won’t become a threat to the general public from their presence in our facility.” Grant, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna, goes on to explain that “the insight we gain by caring for them will prepare us to better treat emergent diseases that may confront the United States in the future.”

Some hospice providers may not be serving patients in the way the end-of-life care should, according to research covered by the Washington Post. Joan Teno, MD, MS, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, is lead author of a study that analyzed more than 1 million records of Medicare patients across the country. Her research team found that some hospices, particularly those that are new and for-profit, have discharge rates of 30 percent or higher. That is double the standard discharge rate. Historically, some patients are discharged from hospice because their health unexpectedly improves. But Teno and colleagues say the higher discharge rates suggest two types of improper hospice practices: admitting patients who are not dying; and releasing patients when their care becomes expensive. She suggests that both practices may be driven more by “profit margins than compassionate care.”   

Chronic stress during adolescence can lead to adverse health outcomes later in life, says Keely Muscatell, PhD, an RWJF Health & Society Scholar, in an interview with NPR member station KALW (San Francisco). Based on her study, “How Stress Makes Us Sick,” Muscatell suggests that ongoing psychological stress during childhood triggers physiological inflammation throughout the body and could be a primary link to such conditions as major depression, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Muscatell explains that chronic stress can even change patterns of gene expression that lead to poor health later in life.

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Aug 12 2014
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With IOM Report and More, Medical Education Is a Hot Topic

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) criticizes an absence of transparency and accountability in the nation’s graduate medical education (GME) financing system, which was created in conjunction with the Medicare and Medicaid programs nearly five decades ago. The 21-member IOM committee behind the report says there is “an unquestionable imperative to assess and optimize the effectiveness of the public’s investment in GME,” and it recommends “significant changes to GME financing and governance to address current deficiencies and better shape the physician workforce for the future.”

Because the majority of public financing for GME comes from Medicare and is rooted in statutes and regulations from 1965 that don’t reflect the state of health care today, the committee’s recommendations include a modernization of payment methods to “reward performance, ensure accountability, and incentivize innovation in the content and financing of GME,” with a gradual phase-out of the current Medicare GME payment system.

Read the report, Graduate Medical Education That Meets the Nation’s Health Needs.

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Aug 11 2014
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Physician Characteristics Can Affect Prostate Cancer Treatment

Management of low-risk prostate cancer varies widely among urologists and radiation oncologists, with characteristics of the physicians who provide treatment playing a significant role in decisions about care, according to a study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers found that urologists who did not graduate from medical school recently, and who care for patients with higher-risk prostate cancer, are more likely to pursue up-front treatment for patients with low-risk prostate cancer than other urologists, who choose to observe and monitor the disease. In many cases, low-risk prostate cancer does not cause symptoms or affect survival if left untreated.

The prevailing approach in the United States, the study says, for men with low-risk prostate cancer is treatment with prostatectomy or radiotherapy, which can cause complications such as urinary dysfunction, rectal bleeding, and impotence. 

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Aug 7 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: The ACA and mental health treatment, HIV training for nurses, the rise of superbugs, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

An Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that allows parents to keep adult children on their health insurance plans under they reach age 26 has resulted in millions more young people with mental-health and substance-abuse problems getting treatment, according to a study led by Brendan Saloner, PhD. Time reports that over two years, young adults ages 18 to 25 who had screened positive for mental health or substance abuse disorders increased their use of mental-health treatment by 5.3 percent compared to a similar group who were not eligible for their parents’ coverage. Vox and HealthDay were among the outlets to report on the study. Saloner is an RWJF Health & Society Scholar.

Infection Control Today quotes Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, CRNP, on the growing need to train nurses to provide HIV care. An RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, Farley developed new HIV curriculum for the John Hopkins School of Nursing, where he is an associate professor. “For many years these specialty training programs in HIV have been available for physicians,” he says. “This is the first time we’re offering them to non-physician providers. It’s quite an important development. When you look at data comparing patient outcomes with physician care and with nurse practitioner care in HIV, whether in the United States or in sub-Saharan Africa, those outcomes are the same.”

Magda Cerdá, PhD, MPH, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna, explores the stressors that lead to high numbers of returning National Guard soldiers abusing alcohol, reports Science Codex. Cerda is the lead investigator of the study, which examined 1,095 Ohio National Guard soldiers who served primarily in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009, and found that having just one civilian stressor such as job loss, or legal or financial problems, raised the odds of alcohol use disorders. Medical Daily and Medical Xpress also cover Cerda’s work.

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