Now Viewing: Grants & Grantees

Can Sports Help Young People Heal From Trauma?

Apr 11, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by David S. Cohen

A local Boston organization is using sports to transform the lives of youth suffering from trauma and its emotional aftermath.

 A coach explains a ball game to a group of students.

Sport has the power to change the world...it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. – Nelson Mandela

When I describe the harrowing circumstances of the youth I work with to reporters, philanthropists, family and friends, they can’t believe that I’m describing the lives of young people in America.

Many of these youth have endured deeply traumatic experiences: crime, abuse, incarceration, domestic or community violence, addiction and even sexual exploitation. Often, they don’t want to talk about the issues they’ve faced—or they don’t know how to.

Yet when you put a ball in their hands, they suddenly light up!

View full post

Building Big Data, One Swab at a Time

Mar 14, 2013, 2:00 PM, Posted by Nancy Barrand

Watch PBS NewsHour's feature, "Researchers Aim to Unlock Genetic Data Goldmine for Vital Medical Information," on the Kaiser biobank to learn more about how Catherine Schaefer, Neil Risch and 200,000 Kaiser members are accelerating the pace of medical research and bringing the future potential of genomics into the here and now.

When the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the Pioneer Portfolio, my colleagues and I asked ourselves what fields might produce the greatest potential game-changers for health and health care. Genomics was at the top of the list. The human genome had been mapped and fantastic discoveries had begun to blossom, but a true era of personalized medicine still seemed too far off.

So we set out to do what Pioneer does best. We explored and learned. We networked.  We asked a lot of questions.  And we began to hunt down ideas.

On March 12, PBS NewsHour did a feature story on one of the big ideas that came out of that process: the world’s largest, deepest, and most diverse “biobank.” It presented a good opportunity to share the backstory. 

 

View full post

PatientsLikeMe Project Pioneers Use of Outcomes Data That Are Meaningful To Patients

Feb 25, 2013, 12:33 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

RWJF has awarded PatientsLikeMe a $1.9 million grant to create the world’s first open-participation research platform to develop patient-centered health outcomes. The new platform will be linked with the PatientsLikeMe network to help researchers develop health outcome measures that better reflect patients’ experiences with a disease, and assess health and quality of life in ways that matter to patients.

Jamie Heywood, co-founder of PatientsLikeMe, and Paul Tarini, senior program officer of the Pioneer Team at RWJF, share their views on why creating an open-access platform to develop measures that matter to patients could advance meaningful treatments that improve health and advance research.

 

Why is this a pioneering project?  What makes it novel? 

View full post

Positioned for Transformation: Expanding the Scope of Health Care

May 18, 2012, 10:58 AM, Posted by Deborah Bae, Jane Isaacs Lowe

In the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s “Realigning Health with Care,” authors Rebecca Onie, Paul Farmer and Heidi Behforouz express their collective belief that—in the United States—we need to expand our understanding of the scope of health care, where it’s delivered and who delivers it. They also make it clear that the time to do so is now if we are going to confront our country’s rising health care costs, primary care physician shortage and expansion of the ranks of those living in poverty or hovering just above it. 

Onie, Farmer and Behforouz also propose that we need to look beyond our shores and borders for models for how to do so, pointing out that “in the developing world, there is no choice but to design health care systems that account for limited financial resources, scarce health care professionals and significant poverty.” 

We couldn’t agree more.

View full post

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 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Donaghue Foundation are now supporting a group of innovative researchers who are testing simple interventions that may have widespread impact on complex problems.

View full post

Positive Deviance Research Continues to Impact Health Care System

Mar 23, 2012, 9:53 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

We are proud to see that an earlier grant supporting research into how positive deviance can be applied to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) prevention in hospitals continues to influence the way health care systems approach and solve challenges.

An article in last week’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report profiles the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, which participated in the CDC Hemodialysis BSI Prevention Collaborative to reduce bloodstream infections (BSIs). The medical center implemented the positive deviance method, identifying individuals within an organization who have overcome seemingly intractable problems and spreading their solutions throughout, to engage staff members in BSI prevention interventions. For example, a nurse developed a mnemonic device to meet the hand hygiene compliance that she then shared with other nurses. The program found that collaborative interventions and the use of positive deviance were associated with significant reduction in BSIs. 

Curt Lindberg, project director on a 2006 Pioneer grant to Plexus Institute to study the effect of using positive deviance to prevent hospital-acquired infections, recently served as a positive deviance coach at AtlanticCare. In his earlier research, Lindberg and other investigators developed a pilot program at six hospitals to control and reduce the rate of MRSA, one of the most virulent hospital-acquired infections in the United States. The study showed that MRSA infections rates declined by 73 percent in four of the six pilot units.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

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.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

Decisions, Decisions, Behavioral Economics and Behavioral Change

Oct 13, 2011, 4:33 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

To improve people’s health, we ask them to change their behavior. Quit Smoking. Eat right. Lose Weight. Take a walk. Get your blood pressure checked. See a doctor. But, as many have noted, making a commitment to do the “right” thing is often easier than following through on that commitment.  In fact, many of the nation’s health epidemics are linked to people doing the “wrong” thing despite their best intentions.  Assuming that people want to feel good and live healthy, productive lives, how can we explain actions that unequivocally threaten that outcome?  As a classically trained economist, I am sorry to say: Classical economics can’t give us an answer to that question.  Wearing the hat of program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, I’m charged with searching, often in unexpected places, for pioneering ideas that have the potential to accelerate change and radically improve our health and the health care we receive. This quest has led the Pioneer Portfolio to the doorstep of behavioral economics.

Unlike classical economics, which assumes people act rationally and make choices in their best interest, behavioral economics does not assume that people behave in ways that maximize their income or long term happiness and wellbeing.   Rather, behavioral economist study how various factors such as environment and psychology lead people to sub-optimal outcomes. Pioneer is seeking ideas from this field because we understand that, in addition to the social determinants of health that we cannot individually control, we are constantly making conscious and unconscious decisions that relate directly and indirectly to our health. We choose whether or not to take our medication. We select the foods we eat. We decide whether to take the stairs or go to the gym.  

When we interact with the health care system, our health care providers make decisions that impact our understanding of our health condition and our treatment protocol. Doctors decide whether to use positive reinforcement or fear tactics to motivate a patient, encourage her to stop smoking, or ask her to get a test. Nurses choose whether to speak up during rounds and how to impart knowledge to a patient when he is discharged from the hospital.  Insurers seek to influence our decisions with financial incentives related to choice of physician, care facility and frequency of interaction with the health system. The frequency of these decisions is important because when we – or our providers – make poor decisions, our chances for a long, healthy life are hurt.

The emerging field of behavioral economics is working to discover how people make decisions that can affect their health behaviors and health care, and how we can learn to guide people toward decisions that are in their best interest, even if they are hard, inconvenient or easy to forget. With this knowledge, policymakers and others can design environments, campaigns, messages and tools that make it easier for people to choose what is best for themselves, their families and their communities.

That’s why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio has issued a call for proposals to identify promising experiments that apply the principles and methods of behavioral economics and choice theory to perplexing health and health care problems. By tapping into the behavioral economics community, we hope to uncover pioneering interventions and policies that will transform the way patients and providers make decisions that affect health for ourselves and our communities.

It is our hope that behavioral economists can help us learn how people think about their health and the decisions they make. Some research we fund will fail, but that’s okay–there will be critical lessons learned from these experiments. The successes and the failures will help to educate our work to transform health and health care for the better.

We’re seeking innovative ideas that apply the field’s principles and theories to perplexing health problems. We are particularly interested in supporting either experiments or secondary data analyses that test innovative solutions to the challenges of obesity and consumer engagement, but any problem can be addressed.

Do you have an idea of how behavioral economics can help change health and health care? Can you think of a health problem that can be transformed by learning more about how patients and providers make decisions about the care they give and receive? If you don’t plan to submit a proposal, leave a comment– I’d love to hear your pioneering ideas.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

Opening Physicians' Notes to Patients

Jun 19, 2009, 4:19 AM, Posted by Steve Downs

Today’s Boston Globe ran a story (page one, no less!) announcing our grant to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center run a three-site demonstration of opening up physicians’ notes to patients.  That’s not just making labs, drugs, allergies, etc. available to patients–it’s giving them access to the actual notes that the physician records about a visit.  Now these notes are technically available now–under HIPAA each of us has a right to our full medical records (of which physician notes are a part), but the processing for obtaining them is often slow, cumbersome and even expensive in some cases.  Under this project, called Open Notes, patients will receive a secure email after the note has been completed and they can see it right away.  They’ll also be prompted to review the note prior to their next visit.  So instead of limiting access to the very determined, access will be easy for anyone who’s mildly interested.

Why would we fund this? Several reasons, really. First, is that at the Pioneer Portfolio, we’re very interested in patient-centered innovation.  Let’s face it:  virtually every trend suggests that people are going to have to become much more engaged in their care and in taking care of themselves.  And, as the pioneers of shared decision-making, patient centeredness, patient activation, online support groups and the health 2.0 community have shown us, real benefits come from this engagement.  So much of the energy and excitement in health care today is coming from the patient/consumer side of the equation. So it’s a space where we believe we will find many innovations that can ultimately transform health.

Second, it’s an elegant system tweak that could really affect behavior.  It’s just a hypothesis at this point, but think about how the knowledge that a patient will read a note will affect how the physician writes the note.  Of course the effect will vary by individual, but this little tweak–with a very small marginal cost–takes a task that physicians do dozens of times a day and reframes it.  As my colleague Paul Tarini has pointed out, it says that this note is for the patient more so than about the patient.  Subtle but important.  My own bet is that this change could do more for influencing how physicians see their relationship with their patients than years of training on how to be more patient centered.  Of course I could be wrong!

And that brings me to the third reason.  This is a controversial idea that needs to be tested.  As we–and Tom Delbanco, the principal investigator on the grant–talked to people, we found strong opinions on both sides of the issue.  There are many people with a patient advocacy perspective who think this is so obvious, such a right and there should be no question about it.  And there are many physicians who think–for very plausible reasons–that this is a terrible idea.  As I said in the Globe article, there’s a bit of a religious character to the debate–you either believe one thing or the other and you believe it strongly.  But there’s been precious little evidence to inform that debate.  That’s why it’s important to do the study and do it on a large scale.

So we’re all excited about this project.  It’s a simple but powerful idea that deserves a real test.  And we hope it sparks enough discussion to raise some interesting and fundamental questions.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

Sandy Pentland on Reality Mining: Phoning In the Data

May 7, 2009, 10:55 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland is the co-director of the Digital Life Consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was co-founder of the Center for Future Health at the University of Rochester. Pentland has a grant from Pioneer to explore the potential role of reality mining technology - a concept that he helped develop - in medicine and in public health.  We asked him to tell us about this work, and he responded:

We live our lives in digital networks. We wake up in the morning, check our e-mail, make a quick phone call, commute to work, buy lunch. Many of these transactions leave digital breadcrumbs – tiny records of our daily experiences. Reality mining, which pulls together these crumbs using statistical analysis and machine learning methods, offers an increasingly comprehensive picture of our lives, both individually and collectively, with the potential of transforming our understanding of ourselves, our organizations, and our society in a fashion that was barely conceivable just a few years ago. It is for this reason that reality mining was recently identified by Technology Review as one of “10 emerging technologies that could change the world.”

As pointed out in a recent Nature article, the single most important source of reality mining data is the ubiquitous mobile phone. Every time a person uses a mobile phone, a few bits of information can be collected. The phone pings the nearest mobile-phone towers, revealing its location. Accelerometers already in some phones can record patterns of physical activity, and the phone’s signal processing hardware can analyze the user’s speaking patterns. With the aid of data-mining algorithms, these data could shed light on the user’s health behaviors, creating new ways of improving their health.

To illustrate, consider two examples of how reality mining may benefit individual health care. By taking advantage of special sensors in mobile phones, such as the microphone or the accelerometers built into newer devices like Apple’s iPhone, important diagnostic data can be captured. Commercial trials by start-up Cogito Health are demonstrating that we can accurately screen for depression from the way a person talks -- depressed people tend to speak more slowly, a change that speech analysis software on a phone might recognize more readily than friends or family do. Similarly, experiments in my laboratory have shown that monitoring a phone’s motion sensors can also reveal small changes in gait, which could be an early indicator of ailments such as Parkinson’s disease.

Perhaps the greatest potential of reality mining of mobile phone data is to create a personalized health system (as opposed to a health care system): a set of information tools that helps people thrive, staying healthy and happy during their entire lives. Such a system would be owned by the individuals themselves, not by hospitals or clinics.

Best Buy, CVS, and Wal-Mart are already queuing up to sell and service the tools such as these that allow people to manage their health. The vision is that is emerging is of a health system built around mobile phones with special sensing capabilities to record your daily and weekly patterns, smart bathrooms that keep track of new types of vital signs, smart exercise equipment that knows your personal patterns, and more...all provided by consumer electronics and similar industries. By building a health system that supports lifelong health, we can make sure our healthcare system is used in the most efficient way. And, even more importantly, we can help citizens of the United States of America achieve far more healthy, happy, and even thriving lives.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.