Author Archives: Brian C. Quinn

Evaluating a Ten-Year Effort to Transform Health Care

Sep 21, 2016, 3:20 PM, Posted by Anne Weiss, Brian C. Quinn

An evaluation of RWJF’s quality improvement initiative, Aligning Forces for Quality, uncovers barriers that health collectives face and how successful cultural shifts have helped transform health systems.

AF4Q report map

I believe a unique opportunity for a philanthropic organization is to explore the big ideas. We have a freedom that few others have to really experiment and innovate. Even to take big risks in our grant making sometimes. Often, the rewards are insights they offer a glimpse of how our nation can address some of the most pressing challenges facing our society.  Aligning Forces for Quality is an example of this philosophy in action.”  —Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

In 2006, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) launched a bold, ten year experiment that became one of its largest philanthropic investments—the Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q) initiative which sought to lift the overall quality, equality, and value of health care in 16 communities across the country.

In each AF4Q community, a regional alliance of doctors, patients, consumers, insurers, and employers worked collaboratively to transform their local health care system. Lessons from these transformations were then used to develop national models for reform. Alliances were tasked with addressing five “forces” to enhance quality while reducing costs:

  • performance measurement and reporting
  • quality improvement
  • engaging consumers in their health and health care
  • reducing health care disparities
  • reforming payment

View full post

Honoring Andy Hyman: A Passionate Advocate for Health Equity

Aug 4, 2016, 9:37 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

A new award celebrates and pays tribute to the life and work of Andy Hyman by recognizing a champion in the field of health advocacy.

The sunrise acts as a backdrop to the Capitol Building in D.C.

My boss and mentor Andy Hyman was the kind of visionary leader who instilled a deep sense of hope in everyone he came into contact with. He inspired in us a feeling that anything was possible. It’s this kind of unwavering hope that is needed when pursuing seemingly insurmountable goals—like the goal of ensuring that everyone in America has access to affordable, quality health care coverage.

Andy led the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) work on health insurance coverage from 2006 until shortly before his untimely death in 2015. One of the things I vividly remember was his deep conviction—even when progress seemed elusive—that we could make major strides toward improving coverage for those who needed it the most. 

Among his many wonderful qualities, Andy had keen political foresight that revealed itself when I started working with him back in 2006. He predicted a window to put the spotlight on health reform in 2008, regardless of who was elected president. In preparation, he led our team in building evidence to make the case for health reform and in bolstering the capacity of community of advocates nationwide who could work on state-level reform. Once the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, Andy worked tirelessly to help implement it in the states.

View full post

Pitch Us: The First-Ever Pioneer Pitch Day

Aug 13, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

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

We’re always willing to hear your ideas for how to innovate health and health care—and to change the world in the process. We accept brief proposals through our website 365 days a year. And we read them, every single one, looking for the big idea that has not yet been considered or the seed of an exploration that could lead to that big idea.

On October 16, we’re going to try a little experiment—a new way for you to share your ideas with us: We’ll be hosting our first-ever Pioneer Pitch Day in New York City. Over the course of two hours, eight teams will tell us their vision for how they want to change the world of health and health care—and how they plan to go about doing so. They’ll be peppered with questions from me, my colleagues on the Pioneer team, our grantees and from a few of our friends, including Esther Dyson. Thomas Goetz, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s entrepreneur-in-residence, will be our emcee. (Update: We are excited to announce that Fast Company staff writer Ben Schiller, NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, Games for Health co-founder Ben Sawyer, PatientsLikeMe co-founder and president Ben Heywood, Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, and IDEO Life Sciences Chief Strategist Rodrigo Martinez will be joining us as judges. Stay tuned for additional updates.)

View full post

A Dispatch from the Cutting Edge of Placebo Studies

Jul 9, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) Courtesy of The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS)

It’s a rare and exciting opportunity to witness a new field of research blossom. Although working on the cutting edge is thrilling for those researchers who operate there, day in and day out—it’s also scary. Every step they take leads them into more uncharted territory.

I recently attended the first of five public forums on the science of placebos, hosted by Pioneer grantee the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS). This forum series, co-sponsored by the Pioneer Portfolio, offers rare public access to the small but burgeoning field of placebo studies.

View full post

Big Data Backlash

Jun 5, 2013, 4:01 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

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

The big data hype cycle is playing out in predictable ways. Perhaps it’s inevitable that, after all the talk about how big data is going to save the world, we’re starting to see a similar rash of stories about how the promise of big data has been oversold. Microsoft Research’s Kate Crawford has been particularly outspoken as of late, with Quentin Hardy recounting her “six myths of big data” in The New York Times last weekend and Kate’s own Foreign Policy piece in May, which pointed out that big data put our privacy at risk, in addition to being susceptible to bias, misunderstanding, limitations and discriminatory outcomes.

I’m all for a little healthy skepticism. In fact, Pioneer seeks out those who are asking questions that others are not. But the potential of big data to take on some of health and health care’s most intractable problems is something we’re excited about here at RWJF. Too many Americans are unhealthy, our health care system isn’t working and I’m confident that effective analysis and use of big data has (at the very least a small) role to play in turning things around. I don’t want this backlash to stifle explorations into what that role could be.

View full post

Partnering with Freakonomics to Find Unconventional Approaches to Ending Childhood Obesity

Mar 27, 2013, 4:55 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

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

Solving intractable problems requires unconventional thinking. We recently partnered with some unconventional thinkers—the co-authors of Freakonomics—to convene a conversation on reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity. We were interested in this collaboration because the experts at Freakonomics have a proven track record of thinking creatively and vigorously; they look at difficult problems through new lenses. 

The eclectic group of participants included:

View full post

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.

View full post

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.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.