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Here, Take This Placebo

Apr 9, 2013, 2:48 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

A handful of pills

A recent report found "most family doctors" in the United Kingdom have given a patient a placebo.

And why not?, asks Phillipa Perry in The Guardian — after all, "a placebo is an effective, proven intervention that stimulates our bodies' own capacity to heal itself."

The answer to Perry’s question, some might argue, is deception — doctors shouldn’t lie to their patients. But what if deception wasn’t necessary for a placebo to work? What if you could tell someone you were giving them a placebo, and it could still improve their symptoms?

This idea is at the heart of Pioneer grantee Ted Kaptchuk's research at Harvard's Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS), the first multidisciplinary institute dedicated to studying placebos. 

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Calling for Problems: What Did We Hear? What’s Next?

Jan 24, 2013, 11:30 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

In December, we asked our readers to tell us about the health care problems they felt were most in need of innovation—the tough problems, the crucial ones, maybe even those they’d seen firsthand. The number of comments we received was encouraging. It has also challenged our thinking, and generated a great deal of discussion on our team.

One thing is certain: The conversation that ensued from that post confirmed that our team needs to do more listening—listening to patients, caregivers, health care professionals, innovators, thought leaders—the list goes on and on.

We saw some common themes in the problems you shared. A few of them are reflected in areas in which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is already working. Clearly there are problems that, despite the intensive efforts of many really smart people, resist conventional solutions. Other themes showed us how important it is to always be examining what we’re doing from perspectives other than our own. 

So where do we go from here?  

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Calling for Problems

Dec 14, 2012, 9:15 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn / RWJF Brian Quinn

In the Pioneer Portfolio, we’re all about ideas—big ones and little ones—the ones that will help solve some of the toughest problems in health and health care. We have clearly articulated our strategy for investing in innovations and innovators who have the potential to transform areas such as the health care delivery system, the patient-provider relationship, and the education of health care professionals. That strategy has yielded some significant breakthroughs, and the hope for much more to come. 

But we’re still missing a big piece of the puzzle. Why? Because right now, we only hear from the folks who have solutions to offer. That approach, by its very nature, limits the number of problems we know about. Those of us who work on the Pioneer team only see health care from the proverbial 30,000-foot vantage point. We are not on the front lines, so we don’t see firsthand the issues health care providers, patients, and families struggle with every single day.

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Can we get off the “gold standard” of academic publishing?

Dec 13, 2012, 9:51 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

We have witnessed tremendous innovation growth over the last several decades. However, with change comes the need to adjust traditional practices that are standard in health and health care. The academic publishing model is no exception.

The current model of academic publishing treats traditional clinical trials as the gold standard for what gets published. Health and health care observers have long argued that focusing on trial results slows down the process of discovery and hinders practice innovation. In addition, the economics of this traditional publishing model are being challenged in our new reality of online, open-access publishing.

But what is the solution? Can we accelerate how we review and disseminate information without compromising the value of the traditional model? How can we improve on what has become the “gold standard” of academic publishing?

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Eight Innovative Ideas to Influence Health Behavior

Apr 4, 2012, 11:30 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Lori A. Melichar Lori Melichar

The majority of my work in the Department of Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been predicated on the long-held assumption that if you show people convincingly that doing one thing will create the outcome they desire, you can inspire behavior change. The problem is that when it comes to health, we consistently observe individuals acting in ways guaranteed to produce poor outcomes.

The observation of seemingly “irrational” behavior by economists, psychologists and others led to the development of the field of behavioral economics, which has, in recent years, produced insight to explain some of the perplexing health behaviors we observe in a way that the classical economic theories I learned in graduate school cannot. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation believes these emerging insights have breakthrough potential to help people make better choices for their health. That’s why I’m excited to announce that the Pioneer Portfolio and Donaghue Foundation are now supporting a group of innovative researchers who are testing simple interventions that may have widespread impact on complex problems.

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