From our CEO

For the past few days, I have been in Orlando, Fla., at Academy Health’s Annual Research Meeting. It’s a star-studded affair if your inclinations lean toward the health policy world. As you can imagine, the events, presentations and plenary sessions are all overshadowed by the imminent Supreme Court announcement on health care reform.

We know the decision will come Thursday around 8 a.m., but what exactly the decision will entail is cause for much speculation. Rumors that are more frequently associated with my teen-age kids are running rampant here in Orlando. (Example:  A former colleague told me that her associate’s friend had dinner with a Supreme Court justice last week, but even that insider information hasn't provided any clarity as to what will be announced Thursday.)

All of this is for good reason. Health services research has enjoyed new momentum, energy and importance over the past couple of years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became the official law of the land. Much is at stake, from personal careers to major shifts in social and health policy. The energy about the ruling is palpable, even if we don’t know what to call it. Excitement? Dread? Anxiety? For many here, much is on the line.

Many meeting participants lead “grant-funded” careers. Their work and livelihoods depend on the grants they manage to secure. Our own Denver Health was awarded a $19.8 million Innovation Award last week from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation. I heard yesterday that while there’s a level of certainty that “year one” funding will be readily available, future funding may not. This is yet another example of just how high the stakes are.

What’s in the shadows, however, should be acknowledged and valued. Yesterday’s plenary session focused on the importance of clinical effectiveness research (CER) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).  Both represent advancement in our field – with a new emphasis on getting better care to patients where they receive care. It’s a pragmatic approach that acknowledges our need to make improvements in care delivery faster, better and more effectively. PCORI in particular institutionalizes the importance we place not only on academic research but on applying that research to “real environments” where patients receive care, clinicians practice and health is ultimately improved.

Regardless of the when, the where and the details of the Supreme Court’s ruling, these changes have impacted health research for the better. Let’s not lose sight of that.

Michele Lueck is the president and CEO of CHI.