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Sanford Researcher Helps Health Systems Work Better for Patients

Oct 23, 2019 08:00AM ● By MED Magazine

Like the human body, health systems are complex systems comprised of many interconnected parts. And, as with the body, it takes effort to comprehend and optimize their inner workings. Research scientist Emily Griese, PhD, Sanford’s Director of Population Health, understands this better than most. Griese was recently selected by Academy Health, one of the country’s largest healthcare research societies, to join a national steering committee on health systems. 

We spoke with her about the appointment and her research

MED: What do you see as the value of being a part of this national committee?

EG: Academy Health is focused on how healthcare systems impact the health of patients. Researchers are often coming up with ideas in a silo. The goal of Academy Health is to come alongside healthcare systems and learn what they are doing and where we need more evidence and more rigor and more science. So it is very pragmatic. That’s what drew me to them.

MED: What is health services research? Can you give an example?

EG: We know that about 5 percent of patients account for 50 percent of the spending on medical care. We have always wanted to address those patients and figure out how we can decrease their high utilization. I was able to start inserting some evidence-based research and practices other health systems have used to address this population. Then I was there to help them come up with a meaningful question that will become a research study to help us find out whether we are actually helping these patients. 

MED: How does it help you to be connected to other healthcare systems through AH?

EG: I always want to be learning what other healthcare systems are doing. For instance, regarding the high utilization patients, some other health systems have done things like put in additional case managers or built buildings to triage their high-spend patients, etc. We are also going to have our own experiences to share. This can help new systems bring evidence into their own systems and become more rigorous. 

MED: How does your own background inform your work?

EG: My background is in community health. So I bring a lot of my learning from the community into our healthcare system. For instance, I look at how things like food insecurity or housing insecurity play a role for people coming to the healthcare system for something like substance abuse.