MedStar Health investigators are dedicated to identifying ways to advance healthcare. Our health services research includes palliative care, health economics and policy, human factors, and health information technology. Our health services research program has several subdivisions focused on research in the following areas.

Comparative effectiveness research

MedStar Health's Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) program comprises senior medical investigators who have been conducting patient-centered outcomes research and community-based clinical research interventions for more than twenty years. Our investigators are experienced at serving as national resources for health researchers and policymakers and participating on national committees that help set national health priorities and recommend standards of care.

Research topics of interest to MedStar CER investigators include

  • Studies that compare different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions

  • Programs that inform patients, providers, and decision-makers about which interventions are most effective for specific conditions and circumstances

  • Assessments of health-related outcomes for diverse patient populations

  • Cost of healthcare and its relative efficiency and effectiveness

  • Programs the enable research findings to be translated into health policy

Health economics and policy

Our economic and policy experts focus on identifying ways to understand and improve the quality, efficiency, affordability, equity, and financing of health care.

Research topics of interest to our investigators include

  • Payment methods for healthcare services (e.g., bundled payments, pay for performance, etc.)

  • Organizing and financing the healthcare delivery system to improve access

  • Examining needed policy changes

  • Developing and testing new delivery of care models

  • Creating, deploying, and evaluating innovative system changes

  • Analyzing demographic and cost trends associated with Medicare and Medicaid spending

  • Comparative effectiveness assessments

Health IT

MedStar's Health Information Technology (IT) research program is possible through a unique collaboration between nurses, physicians, computer scientists, game designers, human factors engineers, instructional designers, researchers, and clinical educators. MedStar's Health IT primary research programs can be categorized as:

  • Electronic medical records (EMR): As the research arm of MedStar Health, MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI) serves as the administrator for the research informatics applications that are used to access and analyze the system-wide data stored in MedStar's EMR. For hypothesis driven research, MHRI uses an innovative cloud computing technology to run queries in an instantaneous fashion against data stored in the MedStar EMR and related registries.

  • Simulation and training: MedStar's Simulation and Training Environment Laboratory (SiTEL), creates innovative training and education solutions for high-risk environments. Its mission is to transform educational approaches in healthcare by developing 21st century training technologies with state-of-the-art pedagogical approaches that are user friendly and easily accessible.

  • Use of IT to improve the delivery of care: MedStar Health has numerous IT-related research and demonstration projects underway throughout the system. The goal for each project is to ascertain if the IT solution can enhance the delivery of care and/or reduce healthcare costs.

Human factors and patient safety

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is an applied science that takes into consideration human capabilities and limitations when designing products, processes, and work environments. MedStar's HFE division, the National Center for Human Factors Engineering in Healthcare (NCHFEH) is a unique scientific and research center that works with clinicians, engineers, and IT professionals to design new healthcare-related systems, processes, instruments, medical devices and work environments that have the potential to better protect patients and improve patient safety in today's complex world of medicine.

NCHFEH is a center within the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2), the innovation division of MedStar Health, whose mission is to catalyze and create innovation that advances health across the MedStar system and in the communities we serve. MI2 examines fresh approaches to difficult problems in health care, and creates solutions in the domains of learning, simulation, information, and building science in addition to HFE.

MedStar's human factors engineers and investigators apply their expertise to the following areas

  • System safety engineering

  • Healthcare ergonomics

  • Proactive risk assessment

  • Patient safety

  • Healthcare-related systems design

  • Medical device efficacy

  • Work environment design

  • Effective root cause analysis solutions

  • Usability evaluation

Nursing research

MedStar Health’s system-wide nursing research council focuses on advancing and applying evidence-based practice to improve patient safety and healthcare outcomes. Our research initiatives, led by nurse researchers and registered nurses, are designed specifically to create an education and mentoring program that fosters the development of evidence-based practice and research activities and to expand participation in multi-site IRB-approved nursing research studies.

MedStar Health Research Institute, in collaboration with nurses throughout MedStar Health, is currently conducting nursing research initiatives that focus on issues nurses routinely face in day-to-day practice. These studies include projects evaluating methods to increase quality of life for critically-ill hospitalized patients, examining and enhancing the effectiveness of charting methods and flagging systems for more reliable clinical communication, and assessing workflow improvements. Our interdisciplinary research approaches have resulted in innovative practices and increased knowledge of ways to improve patient care at the bedside. Some of research topics include:

  • Nursing quality and patient safety improvements

  • Healthcare delivery

  • Educational methods and professional development opportunities that result in workforce improvements

Quality improvement

An important factor in MedStar's Quality Improvement (QI) success is its commitment to translating proven research methods into practice. MedStar Health QI investigators are embedded in the clinical workforce and collaborate with their medical and clinical peers to discover better ways to ensure that patients receive the care they need — safely, compassionately, and when they need it.

Research topics of interest to MedStar's QI investigators include:

  • Access to care

  • New approaches to coordinating systems of care

  • Improvements in signage, documentation procedures, and workflow processes

  • Behaviors and decision-making processes of patients and clinicians

  • Health IT solutions and point-of-care decision support tools

  • Efficiencies that reduce healthcare costs

  • Approaches that strengthen the patient/clinician relationship

In addition, the QI investigators work closely with MedStar's safety experts and its human factors engineering program on quality improvement initiatives that enhance patient safety.

Health economics and aging research (H.E.A.R.) institute

senior couple

The MedStar Health Economics and Aging Research (H.E.A.R.) Institute is part of the MedStar Health Research Institute, located at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. The mission of H.E.A.R. is to support MedStar Health as a laboratory for innovation and best practices in quality geriatric care. The H.E.A.R. Institute facilitates and fosters collaboration with MedStar Health practice sites to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate innovative models of geriatric care delivery.

H.E.A.R. Institute team members

  • Erin Giovannetti, Scientific Director

  • Derek DeLia

  • Dana Frank

  • Daniel Wilhite, Research Assistant

Research topics

Research at the H.E.A.R. Institute falls into three strategic focus areas.

Putting the patient at the center

Three out of four older adults are managing two or more chronic conditions and this population accounts for 93% of Medicare spending. Older adults with multiple chronic conditions and their family caregivers face the most challenges navigating the complex health care system of multiple clinicians, medications, and care settings. We leverage the diverse patient population and rich data infrastructure at MedStar Health to study how innovations in treatment and management of multiple chronic conditions can be most effectively deployed across a wide variety of care settings. The H.E.A.R. Institute research also focuses on how shared decision making and goal-setting can be used to improve the quality of care provided to older adults ensuring that health care addresses what matters most to them. Notable programs include:

  • Collaborative care center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital: This center will open in 2020 and provide integrated specialty and behavioral health care to patients w as congestive heart failure, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The center will aim to reduce hospital length of stay and readmissions by providing intensive chronic disease management and education as patients make the transition from the hospital back to the community. The H.E.A.R. Institute is helping to develop and evaluate this new approach to delivering care.

  • Demonstration of person-driven outcomes for an age-friendly health system: In partnership with the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the H.E.A.R. Institute is engaged in a national, multi-site demonstration of goal-based outcome measurement. This health care intervention allows older adults and their family members to set goals with clinicians based on their own priorities and measure progress on those goals. Click here to learn more.

Economic analysis on the “total cost of care”

Costs for patients and families are rising and more family members are dropping out of the workforce to care for aged loved ones. Spending for Medicare alone, in the absence of change, will account for 8 percent of gross domestic product by 2035. Radical health care reform is required to counter these trends, including a deeper analysis of inefficiencies in our health care system and the economic impact on patients and family members. H.E.A.R. is engaged in several multi-year research programs that seek to reduce not just Medicare costs but also the costs to patients and family members. Notable programs include:

  • MedStar house call program: This innovative model of providing at-home care to housebound older adults is part of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid National Independence at Home Demonstration and early results show substantial savings to Medicare.

  • Center for successful aging at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital: This interdisciplinary geriatric care program uses a risk stratification model to identify and predict high-risk patients, as well as prioritize the management of their care in order to prevent worse outcomes. The H.E.A.R. Institute is engaged in an evaluation of the Center’s model of care and enhancing this model for dissemination across the wider MedStar Health network and beyond. Learn more about this program here.

Delivering equitable care that addresses the social determinants of health

Located in the greater Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas, MedStar Health serves one of the most culturally diverse populations of the United States, and our award-winning researchers have successfully conducted numerous studies involving underserved and minority populations. We know that addressing health disparities involves understanding the needs of the community beyond those typically addressed in the medical care system, such as housing, nutrition, transportation, and safety. The H.E.A.R. Institute will facilitate partnerships with health equity and community-based participatory research experts to advance our understanding of how to best to deliver cost-effective, high-quality, and equitable care to all aging patients in community-based settings.

Support us

Sustainability is the key to success. Communities need sustainable health in order to thrive. Health systems need sustainable models of care in order to effectively serve their patients. MedStar Health believes that the H.E.A.R. Institute community-based research will help achieve both of these goals, as well as identify opportunities to lower costs while achieving better health outcomes.

The missing link is bringing the community, research, and expert health care resources together to identify these solutions and ways to sustain them over time. The synergy of these diverse partners will spark opportunities and resources we could not have imagined otherwise. This work will pay for itself in the long run. Please consider “paying it forward” to make this vision, in honor of Dr. Dana Frank, a reality. Learn more about philanthropy at MedStar Health here.

MedStar Health seeks to raise $2 million in philanthropic investments to build the H.E.A.R. Institute. These crucial start-up funds will help build the team with supporting research scientists and analysts with expertise in bioinformatics, biostatistics, community-based research, health economics, and implementation science. The start-up funds are necessary both to begin this critical work and secure additional grant funding for the future.