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400 UM Researchers Unite To Tackle Health Care’s Thorniest Problems

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UM's North Campus Research Complex. Photo: University of Michigan

UM’s North Campus Research Complex. Photo: University of Michigan

mattroush Matt Roush
Matt Roush joined WWJ Newsradio 950 in September 2001 to spearhead the...
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ANN ARBOR — With a common goal of making health care better, safer, more cost-effective and more equal, nearly 400 health researchers from across the University of Michigan and partner organizations have formed one of the nation’s largest research entities of its kind.

The Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, which opened its new home just days ago, unites members of an already strong health care research community in a new way — making UM a true powerhouse in the field known as health services research.

From cancer, heart disease and diabetes to children’s health, surgery and mental health, IHPI’s members study topics in health care delivery, coverage and policy.

Working together through IHPI, the researchers expect they can accelerate their studies on how health care is delivered today, and their tests of innovations that could improve health care, health insurance and health policy tomorrow.

The opening of a new home for IHPI — in a dedicated building at UM’s North Campus Research Complex — arrives on the third anniversary of UM’s purchase of that site.

The first 80 IHPI researchers and staff moved in to the newly renovated building last week, and more than 400 more will move there in coming months, creating a hub of activity and cooperation that will be one of the nation’s largest concentrations of health care policy and services researchers. In all, IHPI includes nearly 400 faculty researchers plus hundreds of professional staff and trainees.

“We truly expect IHPI to become the largest university-based collection of health services and health care policy researchers in the country, and to pursue research that will enhance the health and well-being of people locally, nationally and globally,” says Rodney Hayward, M.D., chair of the interim leadership team that has guided IHPI’s formation over the past year. He is a professor of internal medicine at the UM Medical School, a researcher at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and a faculty member in the UM School of Public Health.

Just over half the members of IHPI are faculty in the UM Medical School, where IHPI is based, and nearly a quarter are from the UM School of Public Health. The rest come from UM’s colleges of Engineering, Pharmacy, and Literature, Science & the Arts, its schools of Business, Dentistry, Law, Nursing, Public Policy and Social Work, and its Institute for Social Research.

A full 12 percent of IHPI members hold full or joint appointments at one of IHPI’s partners: the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and its Center for Clinical Management Research, the Arbor Research Collaborative for Health, the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (a joint venture between UM and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan), or other partners.

“This cross-disciplinary and public-private nature of IHPI fits perfectly with the overall goal of making the North Campus Research Complex a haven for such research,” says David Canter, executive director of NCRC.

He notes that IHPI’s faculty and staff who have moved or will move to NCRC are joining more than 1,300 researchers and staff from UM and 20 private companies at the site.

“As the first research group to move into the IHPI building, we have been struck by the renovation of what had been a very traditional office building into a state-of-the-art research Institute designed to enhance collaboration across disciplines and across campus,” says Laurence McMahon, M.D., chief of the General Medicine division in the Medical School’s Department of Internal Medicine, a member of IHPI’s interim leadership team and the School of Public Health faculty. “We look forward to the realization of the interdisciplinary focus of IHPI. We believe the investment in both architectural design to enhance collaboration as well as the investment in the virtual collaborative infrastructure will serve as a model for research groups across the country.”

IHPI members’ work is mainly computer-based, but a $13.7 million renovation of a former office building has created space that encourages collaboration and spontaneous meetings. IHPI will also offer computing support and facilities.

By analyzing large amounts of data from hospitals, government agencies, medical societies, insurance companies and other sources, the IHPI researchers hope to spot problems and trends, evaluate how well new treatments and technologies work, and identify ways to improve quality, safety, equity and cost-effectiveness.

The formation of IHPI will give them access to new tools, partnerships and data sources – and allow them to share ideas more readily.

Even though not all IHPI members will move to NCRC, the ability for all members to come together virtually should spark collaboration and allow them to seek even more public and private partners also interested in health care delivery. The search for a director for IHPI is now under way.

“Our faculty, and their teams, have for decades made sizable contributions to the improvement of health services and health policy realms,” says Martin Philbert, Ph.D., dean of the U-M School of Public Health. “This new institute will deepen and amplify that impact, and will open new avenues for collaboration within and beyond our institution.”

“Co-location of health services researchers from across U-M will enable interactions and insights that push the boundaries of our scholarly work and further its impact on health care practice and policy,” says James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean of the U-M Medical School. “Already the work of IHPI members is making an impact across the country and around the world, and this dedicated new headquarters for the Institute will enable continued success in this growing field.”

For more information, including a list of the U-M faculty and research groups that make up IHPI, visit http://ihpi.umich.edu/ .

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