A rapidly changing health care landscape poses challenges to health systems trying to keep up with evolving payment models, emerging technologies, consolidation and new ways of delivering care. In decades past, health systems reacted to change as it occurred, putting them one step behind. Today, health systems look to qualitative and quantitative research to understand the economic and clinical changes at play across the country to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.

For more than two decades, the Vizient Research Institute™ has been providing that insight to members by conducting qualitative and quantitative strategic research. Over that time, the Research Institute’s focus has broadened from academic medical centers to include teaching hospitals and community-based health systems.

“We offer members an independent and objective point of view that, at times, may be contrary to a commonly accepted perspective,” said Bob Browne, vice president, clinical enterprise insights for Vizient. “That’s because our work is rigorously grounded in objective, quantitative analysis, not a specific set of beliefs.”

There also is a qualitative aspect to the Research Institute’s work and the conclusions they draw. The research includes site visits and interviews with members to gain additional insights that inform the study’s methodologies and to design and test suggested strategies. 

Browne and Erika Johnson, vice president, strategic research for Vizient, lead teams who examine the broad environmental trends impacting member organizations, such as price transparency and new payment models. They then model the potential impacts from a business or economic perspective, and suggest strategies and tactics for members that will help them remain viable in the future.

The research always starts with data.

Leveraging Medicare and commercial claims data has become crucial as the health care industry moves toward value-based payments and increased accountability for episodes of care. Claims data from those sources, coupled with Vizient’s robust Clinical Data Base (CDB) allows the Research Institute to track everything occurring with a patient – regardless of where care is provided – to highlight variations and understand the drivers of health care spending.

The Research Institute’s year-long research study for 2016 assesses the economic value multihospital health systems deliver to patients and payers. The study proposes that to deliver incremental value to patients and payers, systems must reduce utilization appropriately to offset price increases that commonly accompany hospital market consolidation. The Research Institute analyzed the incidence of discretionary utilization across 150 health systems and found that systems have the potential to deliver value to patients and payers, but some do more than others. Findings will be released to members in early 2017.

Throughout the year, the Research Institute also conducts thematic research that drills into topics that emerge throughout the course of the annual research study. Results are summarized and delivered as “Touch Points,” which are quick-hitting quantitative pieces that shed light on pressing issues impacting members. One Touch Point focused on the opportunity to improve cost-efficiency by reducing fragmented care among patients with complex, chronic illness. A key finding was that chronically ill patients who receive at least 90 percent of their care from a single health system cost 40 to 60 percent less than patients who receive less than 50 percent of their care from any one system. Another Touch Point highlights the unique opportunity for health systems to improve the delivery of care at the end of life while also contributing to the economic sustainability of the U.S. health care system by better matching scarce resources with the attainment of an optimal balance between longevity, functionality and the enjoyment of life. 

In addition to the year-long and thematic economic research studies, the Research Institute produces an annual environmental assessment. These assessments are designed to raise awareness of the major trends impacting the health care landscape.  Monthly blogs share viewpoints and highlight findings from its work to the broader health care audience.

Regardless of the format, all Research Institute deliverables include action items that detail things health systems should be paying attention to and the related steps they should be taking to decrease expenses, enhance clinical performance and improve patient satisfaction.

“We would like to be thought of as a resource to member organizations looking to get ahead of the curve,” Browne said. “Everything we do at the Research Institute is with an eye toward the future, and what is going to be important three to five years out, so that we can help position our members for continued success, even as the health care market evolves.”

“It’s an exciting time for the Research Institute, given our new Vizient organization and the dynamic changes occurring in the U.S. health care delivery system,” said Johnson. “It’s rewarding to work with our members to help them understand the impact of national economic trends and to be able to leverage our research and insights to see how their application leads to measurable improvements in economic and clinical performance.”

The Vizient Research Institute is a value-added benefit for all Vizient members, both academic medical centers and community-based health systems. For additional information about the Research Institute and recent deliverables, please contact Bob Browne or Erika Johnson.


Published: November 8, 2016