Experts Share Four Key Studies you Might have Missed this Summer

Research Corner
September 5, 2023

Soleil Shah, MD, MSc, Research Reporter

Soleil Shah writes Tradeoffs’ Research Corner, a weekly newsletter bringing you original analysis, interviews with leading researchers and more to help you stay on top of the latest health policy research.

Hey there, I hope you all got at least a little time to relax this summer. Even a walk in the woods or a picnic with friends (or, in my case, taking up pickleball) offers the downtime our bodies and brains need to come back strong in the fall. 

That said, important research on health care delivery — what works and what doesn’t — never takes a break. Still trying to catch up with your inbox? No sweat. We asked some experts from our Tradeoffs Advisory Board for their favorite “must read” study from the summer journal issues.

Have other favorite studies we might have missed? Reply to this email to share them with me!

Experts Share Four Key Studies you Might have Missed this Summer

Stacie Dusetzina
Professor of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

At the top of my list is this paper coauthored by my fellow Tradeoffs Advisory Board member Ishani Ganguli. Health systems are increasingly being held accountable by public and private health insurance plans for the cost and quality of care their patients receive. This study highlights one thorn in the side of those health systems: wasteful or “low-value” care that provides no clinical benefit and may even harm patients. The authors also show how difficult that kind of care is for health systems to rein in, even when they have strong financial incentives to do so. One big reason, the researchers find, is that patients often continue to seek treatment from clinicians practicing at other health systems — and sometimes the care those clinicians provide is wasteful.

Bianca Frogner
Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine

With all the chatter recently about ChatGPT, this study was especially interesting; it took a close look at several emerging technologies in the long-term care sector to determine whether the tech was substituting or complementing the human workforce. It seems that most technologies complement the work of people, making the workers more productive. That’s been a typical finding for IT in general. In some ways, these technologies aim to reduce waste and allow workers to focus on more meaningful tasks   a good goal. With the tech space rapidly changing, this review’s not the end-all and be-all, but it offers a helpful framework for thinking about these issues.

Heather Klusaritz
Associate Director, Center for Community and Population Health, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

I’d point folks to a pair of studies evaluating a pilot program run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that tested whether connecting people who have health-related social needs (such as food insecurity or housing instability) to community resources can reduce their use of expensive hospital care and save the federal government money. Together, the studies paint a mostly disappointing picture — while the model did make a modest dent in emergency room visits, it did not reduce costs overall or even result in a greater share of people having their unmet social needs addressed. Unsurprisingly, a lack of funding and insufficient social services are likely culprits. Those are lessons that I hope health insurance companies and policymakers heed as they roll out a growing number of mandates requiring hospitals and clinics to assess patients’ social needs.

Laura Wherry
Assistant Professor, New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

One of my favorite studies is this new working paper by Marguerite Burns and Laura Dague. The research team pulls together high-quality, individual-level data to provide brand new information on the effects of Medicaid coverage for formerly incarcerated adults — an under-researched and very vulnerable group of people. Burns and Dague find that having Medicaid health coverage leads to meaningful reductions in reincarceration and better employment outcomes, as well as better access to health care.