A Pioneer Auld Lang Syne

Dec 27, 2012, 11:45 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Staff portrait of Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

As New Year’s Eve approaches, let’s take a look at a few of Pioneering Ideas’ greatest hits of 2012 one last time.

We rang in 2012 with a post about an idea Steve Downs called simple and dangerous—OpenNotes, an experiment that has enabled patients to read their doctors’ medical notes. We believe OpenNotes has the potential to transform the way patients engage with health care professionals—and take charge of their health.

In October, he reported on the results of a yearlong pilot at three health systems with 105 primary care doctors and 19,000 patients: “Patients overwhelmingly support open notes; they report significant benefits from it; and doctors reported that the effects on their practice have been minor.”

In February, we celebrated some good news from another Pioneer grantee, Freelancers Union.  Thanks to $340 million in low-interest and no-interest loans from the federal government, Freelancers Union announced it was launching three Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs) —nonprofit, consumer-governed insurance companies envisioned by the Affordable Care Act to expand health insurance choices for consumers and small businesses.  The three, in New York, New Jersey, and Oregon, are based on models developed by Freelancers Union under the third of three grants from the Pioneer Portfolio.

In March, we caught up with Sara Horowitz, the founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, to find out more about the CO-OP model and her work to put the “health” back in health insurance.

We greeted spring with new evidence about how our psyche influences heart health, part of the ongoing work of Pioneer grantee Positive Health. Paul Tarini told us why happiness is hot. What Paul was referring to was the report, “The Heart’s Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health,” from Harvard School of Public Health researchers Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky, in the Psychological Bulletin. It was the first study of its kind to look closely at how positive psychological well-being—including happiness and optimism—plays a role in heart health.

Speaking of hot topics, Nancy Barrand wrote about Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), an idea nurtured by the Pioneer Portfolio that is spreading like wildfire—using technology to share medical expertise that exists mostly in academic medicine with frontline providers anywhere via virtual case-based learning and mentorship. Nancy wrote in the wake of an announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs that it would deploy the innovation throughout its system.

The idea was the brainchild of Sanjeev Arora, MD, a liver disease specialist and leading social innovator at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque. He created Project ECHO as a way to exponentially expand the health care system’s ability to treat patients with complex chronic illnesses.

In September, the Foundation’s new website made its debut, as did our new and improved blog, and we used it as an opportunity to remind readers just what makes an idea pioneering.

In November, during “Get Smart about Antibiotics Week,” Ramanan Laxminarayan reminded us that antibiotic resistance continues to be an enduring threat. Laxminarayan is the director of The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a Pioneer grantee that runs Extending the Cure.

In December, RWJF sponsored the mHealth Summit—an annual conference that looks at the impact mobile technology is having on health and health care—for the fourth year in a row. Al Shar, vice president and senior program officer, shared his vision for mobile health. No matter the technology, health care is about helping patients, a lesson brought home by David Haddad, program manager of Open mHealth, with this post in advance of the summit.

Finally, I kicked off this year’s holiday season by asking for some rather unusual gifts: problems.

“Why? Because right now, we only hear from folks who have solutions to offer.” Feel free to share your thoughts about problems that you think need addressing in the comments section of this post. As we look into 2013, we know our search for promising ideas and people with solutions will take us many places. We hope you’ll continue with us on that journey.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.