The University Record, January 14, 1998

University launches multidisciplinary Health Services Research Initiative

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The University has launched a multidisciplinary Health Services Research Initiative that will provide support to health services researchers throughout the University.

John R.C. Wheeler, professor of health management and policy, School of Public Health, will direct the initiative. Wheeler is an internationally recognized health services researcher who just completed six years as chair of the top-ranked Department of Health Management and Policy.

"The U.S. health care system is undergoing rapid change," says Ada Sue Hinshaw, chair of the U-M Health Sciences Council, which explored the creation of an initiative in 1996-97 and appointed Wheeler as director last month.

"The changes present consumers, health care providers, insurers, employers and regulators with an array of complex problems and issues. The complexity of the problems often can be best addressed through multidisciplinary research---an important goal of the initiative. Nearly 200 faculty in 12 schools or disciplines are involved in health services research. The initiative will greatly strengthen the multidisciplinary aspects of the University health services research program," Hinshaw adds.

In 1995-96, a University task force of faculty in health services research identified key areas for study. The initiative will facilitate research on these topics, including:

  • Health care organization and financing.
  • Access to health care.
  • Practitioner and consumer behavior.
  • Quality of care.
  • Clinical evaluation and outcomes research.
  • Infomatics and clinical decision-making.
  • The health professions workforce.

    "We will provide a range of practical assistance to health services researchers across campus," Wheeler says. "Essentially, our goal will be to help them plug into a network of information and expertise as quickly as possible. We will provide information on who is doing what at the U-M and facilitate collaborative research and activities."

    The initiative also will acquire and manage databases of value to researchers. "For instance," Wheeler explains, "we might develop databases on the kinds of care protocols being developed for various diseases or conditions, or we might construct one that incorporates data related to the financial and operating performance of health care providers across the country."

    In addition, the initiative will sponsor multidisciplinary seminars and organize and create new funding opportunities for multidisciplinary research teams.

    The initiative is funded by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs in the amount of $1.5 million over three years.

    "The initiative is an outstanding example of interdisciplinary research at the U-M," says Provost Nancy E. Cantor. "It has a unique structure and operating model, the essence of which is to promote communication and collaboration among health services researchers. It also will serve as a catalyst or incubator to foster the development of innovative new approaches to health care. I am very pleased to provide resources to help launch this exciting and important initiative."

    Wheeler will be meeting with U-M health services researchers in the coming months to discuss their needs. "I look forward to these discussions and welcome all queries and feedback," he says. Wheeler can be reached via e-mail at jackwhee@umich.edu.

    "This important campuswide initiative will be complemented by substantial investment in health services research within the U-M Health System, studying approaches and progress toward our own clinical redesign, patient satisfaction and critical outcomes objectives," says Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of the Health System.

    The Steering Committee of the initiative includes Wheeler; Amid Ismail, professor of dentistry; John E. Billi, associate dean for clinical affairs, Medical School; Katherine Jones, associate professor and interim director of the Division of Nursing and Health Care Systems and Administration Programs, School of Nursing; Frank J. Ascione, associate professor of pharmacy administration, College of Pharmacy; Jeffrey Alexander, acting senior associate dean for academic affairs, School of Public Health; Kristine A. Siefert, professor of social work, School of Social Work; and James O. Woolliscroft, chief of clinical affairs, U-M Health System.

    The Health Sciences Council includes Hinshaw, dean of the School of Nursing; James W. Richards, dean of the College of Pharmacy; Noreen M. Clark, dean of the School of Public Health; William E. Kotowicz, dean of the School of Dentistry; A. Lorris Betz, interim dean of the Medical School; Paula Allen-Meares, dean of the School of Social Work; and Larry Warren, interim executive director of U-M Health System.