Archive for: 2011

The False Dichotomy of Nature Versus Nurture

Dec 14, 2011, 3:05 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

We all attribute certain traits to nurture and others to nature. “I’m stubborn. I get that from my dad’s side. My ambition and leadership skills? I learned those.” But Pioneer grantee Nicholas A. Christakis says more of the traits we typically attribute to culture have evolutionary roots, including who we choose as friends and whether or not we practice healthy behaviors.

In this week’s TIME magazine, Christakis argues that a new synthesis of biological and social science – biosocial science –can unearth solutions to some of the world’s most vexing public health problems. He writes that we can use our understanding of biology and behavior to address problems like how to get medications or tools to remote villages, control the behavior of dangerous crowds, or predict an epidemic before it happens. Christakis, a Pioneer grantee and a professor of sociology and medicine at Harvard, contributed this essay as one in a series by TIME’s most influential people in the world.

You can also learn about Christakis’ innovative research into how humans interact and coordinate in response to the behavior of one’s social partners in a recent Pioneer-funded article published in Science and in this profile.

Read the TIME essay, review Christakis’ work on patterns of human coordination and defection, tweet your thoughts about the nature versus nurture argument, or comment below. We’d love to hear what you think.

Vote for the Most Influential Articles of the Year

Dec 7, 2011, 2:15 AM

It’s time for RWJF’s annual research poll! David C. Colby, vice president of Research and Evaluation, announced the 20 nominees for RWJF’s Most Influential Research Articles of 2011. We are honored that three Pioneer grantees made the list:

Vote for your top 5 Most Influential Research articles of 2011 now and use #Final_5 on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to follow the conversation and let others know which articles you think should make the top five for 2011. Voting ends on midnight of December 23 so act fast! This year’s winners will be announced in the next issue of Evidence Matters to be released in early 2012.

RWJF Grantees Named to Forbes' Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs List

Dec 2, 2011, 3:28 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Forbes is known for its lists – America’s richest people, most expensive zip codes, most promising companies and more. This year, for the first time in its 94-year history, Forbes released a new list – the top 30 social entrepreneurs. We’re proud to announce that Pioneergrantees made the list – twice!

Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy made the list for B Lab, a nonprofit that certifies businesses as “B Corporations”—companies that adopt a legal structure requiring them to create value for a broad set of stakeholders—employees, communities and the environment–not just their shareholders.  Their hope is that certified “B Corps” will flourish by attracting consumers who are looking to support businesses that align with their values and helping investors to drive capital to higher-impact investments with greater social responsibility, as well as financial returns.  To be certified, companies must adopt the legal structure and pass an annual B Impact Assessment. Under their Pioneer-funded grant, B Lab will develop the first set of criteria to assess a corporation’s performance in areas of employee and community health and safety to be included in the annual assessment.

Sara Horowitz is listed for founding Freelancers Union, which provides affordable health insurance to freelancers, consultants and temps who don’t have access to employer coverage. Her grant from Pioneer enables the Freelancer's Union to expand its group purchasing health-benefits program from New York into New Jersey and Georgia.  A previous grant established the for-profit Freelancers Insurance Company to design a health plan model for freelancers in New York state that combines catastrophic insurance coverage with coverage for prevention and wellness services.

RWJF’s Vulnerable Populations Portfolio is also excited to see two grantees on the list. Jill Vialet made the list for founding Playworks, which improves the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. Playworks sends trained, full-time coaches to low-income, urban schools, where they transform recess and play into a positive experience that helps kids and teachers get the most out of every learning opportunity throughout the school day. Rebecca Onie is included for co-founding Health Leads, which mobilizes undergraduate volunteers to help patients fill “prescriptions” shared during provider visits for basic resources needed to be healthy, like food, heating assistance, child care or housing. Health Leads is one of many promising models addressing social needs through the health care system.

As team director of the Pioneer Portfolio, I’m thrilled to see our grantees singled out as innovative entrepreneurs. These innovators represent the kind of leadership and ingenuity that can help us tackle the tough health and health care problems we face in the U.S. Check out the story and don’t forget to congratulate Jill Vialet (@jillvialet), Rebecca Onie (@rebeccaonie), Sara (@Sara_Horowitz) and the B Lab crew (@BCorporation) on Twitter using the #Impact30 hashtag.

Innovations in Integrated Health

Nov 30, 2011, 12:28 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

BY DR. JASON HWANG, Executive Director of Healthcare, Innosight Institute

Jason Hwang, MD, MBA is an internal medicine physician and executive director of healthcare at Innosight Institute, a nonprofit social innovation think tank he co-founded with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation. Through a grant from the Pioneer Portfolio, Dr. Hwang has worked to apply the principles of disruptive innovation to the health care delivery system. Disruptive innovations occur when new business or delivery models displace overly complex and costly, expertise-intensive models. Highlighting work from the Pioneer-funded studies, Dr. Hwang recently described the need for innovation in health care in a post on CNBC.com and was featured in a Human Ingenuity series on Forbes.com.

Why have select integrated health systems outpaced their peers across nearly all quality and cost measures? More than one year ago, Innosight Institute–a nonprofit think tank co-founded by innovation expert Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School –set out to answer this question by identifying the critical factors and decisions that led to successful, integrated health systems.

Our findings are documented in the paper "Disruptive Innovation in Integrated Care Delivery Systems," which is the culmination of research on seven different organizations representing a wide spectrum of health systems around the country. Major observations and findings include: 

  • Successful innovations that may be incorporated into today’s ongoing integration efforts, including mergers, accountable care organizations, and virtual assemblages being formed to participate in bundled payment programs and pay-for-performance contracts;
  • The importance of expanding the scopes of practice of various clinical staff, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to ensure access to quality care through disruptive delivery models;
  • Best practices in the use of electronic health records and health IT that should be implemented across all health systems as stimulus funds promote their widespread adoption.

Identifying these success factors is a crucial step forward in paving the way for similar organizations to be cultivated elsewhere and ensuring that one day every American will have access to high quality, affordable care.

Innosight Institute is also pleased to release its latest case study in conjunction with this project, which documents the experience of Sentara Healthcare in Virginia as it prepares for significant changes in how health care will be delivered and priced in the future. Pilots focusing on chronic disease management, bundled payments for procedures, and a patient-centered medical home are underway, yet Sentara is also acutely aware of the challenges these new delivery models pose to its successful, hospital-led health care system.

Not content with simply reacting to change, Sentara also created a test bed for wellness initiatives by targeting employee health with a program that includes a $500-per-employee rebate and has resulted in a return on investment of $6 for every $1 invested in the program. Meanwhile, the organization’s health plan, Optima Health, has sought to grow its consumer-directed, high-deductible health plans by first developing information and pricing tools for patients.

I invite you to read about Sentara and our other case study subjects: HealthPartners, Lancaster General Health, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Group Health Cooperative, Grand Valley Health Plan, and Baystate Health (forthcoming).

Finally, I offer my special thanks to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, whose financial support made this work possible.

What Do We Really Need from mHealth?

Nov 29, 2011, 1:04 AM, Posted by Al Shar

The December 5-7 mHealth Summit is approaching and I’m pleased and excited to be moderating the special session: What I Really Need from mHealth: Five Perspectives on Value.

Pioneer has been involved with multiple aspects of mHealth since very early on and has seen interest grow into what sometimes seems to me to be an “irrational exuberance,” to borrow a phrase from Alan Greenspan. I’m concerned that we’re on the way to another bubble that’s in danger of bursting with unfortunate consequences. The fact is we often don’t know what “works,” and even what “working” means. And that’s why it’s so important that we discuss the different ways value needs to be demonstrated in mHealth.

This mHealth Summit panel will talk about value from the perspectives of the individual, the provider, the payer, the regulator and the researcher. These can be different, but from time to time they converge. Rather than having a number of separate presentations, experts will engage in discussion around a hypothetic but realistic scenario of a mobile health device and what’s needed to provide enough “value” for each to adopt, approve, purchase, share, fund and embrace this as a tool for better health. It is sure to be a lively and informative discussion.

I hope that you’ll be able to join us either in person in Washington, D.C. or electronically to help us shape the dialogue.

Follow the conference discussion through #mHS11, leave a comment below, or follow me on Twitter to join in the conversation.