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Faculty Research

Our Groundbreaking Research

The faculty of the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) conducts research across a wide range of current health policy issues. Ours is a methodologically diverse department, and our research includes the application of rigorous analytic methods to evaluate specific health policy questions as well as the methods themselves. Our faculty members are engaged in multiple research areas, including:
  • pharmaceutical policy 
  • financing Medicare and Medicaid
  • long-term care
  • organ donation and allocation
  • technology assessment
  • mathematical modeling and simulation

The following are profiles of standout funded faculty research in these areas. 

Pharmaceutical Policy

HPM has substantial expertise in the analysis of large administrative and claims databases for the evaluation of the impact of various health policies. With the advent of Medicare Part D and health care reform, there is substantial interest in understanding the impact of medication reimbursement policies on health care spending and outcomes. Yuting Zhang, associate professor of health economics, has demonstrated recently that only 5 percent of seniors are enrolled in the most cost-effective Part D plan for their particular situations and that these patients overspend by several hundred to a thousand dollars per year. Using Medicare claims data, Associate Professor Julie Donohue found that a substantial amount of the variation in Part D spending arises from the regional differences in price rather than from different amount of prescription use.

Financing Medicare and Medicaid

The recent expansion of Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act prompted the Pennsylvania legislature to contract with the RAND Corporation and Donohue to predict the economic and coverage impact of Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania, which would expand Medicaid roles by 350,000 people and bring nearly $2 billion in federal revenue to Pennsylvania.

Long-Term Care

HPM has had a longstanding interest in the measurement of and improvement in the quality of long-term care. Professor Nick Castle and colleagues at RAND are engaged in several projects, including examining staff turnover in long-term care settings (including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and elderly high rises), use of the federal report card Nursing Home Compare, levels of job satisfaction among nursing home administrators, closure of nursing homes, staff injuries, and responses to disasters. Prior research has investigated how institutional factors can affect the outcomes of nursing home residents with mental illnesses, use of medications, and mortality rates of nursing home residents with mental illnesses. Studies through the department over the past 15 years have surveyed by mail more than 20,000 long-term care facilities; 15,000 family members of residents; and 30,000 nurse aides. The most recent survey conducted for the National Institute for Justice examined resident abuse in assisted living facilities.

Organ Donation and Allocation

Our department is conducting several research projects related to organ allocation and donation. Associate Professor Howard Degenholz conducts research aimed at improving organ donation in the United States, including through the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as the development of an online video game designed to teach players the importance of organ donation in a successful transplantation program. Professor Mark Roberts and Associate Professor Cindy Bryce have long-standing work related to modeling the U.S. organ allocation system to evaluate different prioritization and allocation policies. Currently they are evaluating the impact of various strategies in the care of patients with pediatric acute liver failure.

Technology Assessment

HPM is conducting projects involving the evaluation of new health care technologies. For example, Assistant Professor Jagpreet Chhatwal is currently evaluating the complicated decision faced by patients with hepatitis C regarding whether to wait for newer, more effective drugs that are currently under development or to initiate therapy now with existing antiretroviral drugs, which may substantially reduce the effectiveness of the new drugs when they become available. Assistant Professor Julia Driessen is evaluating the impact on costs in clinical outcomes of the implementation of simple, open-source electronic health records in resource-poor environments in Africa.

Mathematical Modeling and Simulation

In collaboration with the Swanson School of Engineering Department of Industrial Engineering, the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory and multiple investigators in other institutions, Chattwal and Roberts are conducting research in the use of complex mathematical methods and the use of clinically realistic agent-based models to examine health policy decisions involving HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases.

HPM Faculty Research News

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Tribal Legal Preparedness Project now available on CDC Web site 

Tribal Legal Preparedness Project now available on CDC Web site

The Tribal Legal Preparedness Project, created by HPM's TINA BATRA HERSHEY and the Center for Public Health Practice, is now available! Check it out and share with anyone who may be interested in emergency preparedness for Tribal Nations.  (07/02/2018)
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Pittsburgh finds overdose risk quintuples with opioid and Benzodiazepine use 

Pittsburgh finds overdose risk quintuples with opioid and Benzodiazepine use

ASPPH FRIDAY LETTER - In the first 90 days of concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine use, the risk of opioid-related overdose increases five-fold compared to opioid-only use among Medicare recipients. "Having multiple prescribers who are not in communication increases the risk for overdose,” says HPM... (07/02/2018)
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Pitt Public Health study helps inform new legislation sponsored by Sen Toomey (video) 

Pitt Public Health study helps inform new legislation sponsored by Sen Toomey (video)

In Sen Toomey's weekly e-newsletter, he announces that the Senate Finance Committee adopted his amendment, the Encouraging Appropriate Prescribing for Victims of Overdose in Medicare Act, to require Medicare to notify a doctor if their patient has suffered a non-fatal opioid overdose. Toomey refere... (06/26/2018)
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The common drug that may make opioid overdose five times as likely 

The common drug that may make opioid overdose five times as likely

FORBES - A new study shows that the combination of opioids with benzodiazepines is especially risky in the first 90 days of concurrent use. "These findings demonstrate that fragmented care plays a role in the inappropriate use of opioids, and having multiple prescribers who are not in communication... (06/25/2018)
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Tribal Legal Preparedness Project Launches at Pitt Public Health 

Tribal Legal Preparedness Project Launches at Pitt Public Health

UPMC - “Public health emergencies are issues that every community faces,” said HPM's TINA BATRA HERSHEY. “To address these threats... We created the Tribal Legal Preparedness Project to assist tribal nations interested in expanding their legal preparedness capacity.” The project will provide free t... (05/11/2018)
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Celebrate 70: Research and practice showcase (video) 

Celebrate 70: Research and practice showcase (video)

BCHS's JESSICA BURKE, HPM's ERIC ROBERTS and DIANA DELUCIA (IDM '19) each present recent work ranging from community research on stigmatization of menstrual practices in Nepal, to the economics and equity of Medicaid reform, to the microbiology of HIV re-infection.   (04/19/2018)
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Would Americans accept putting health care on a budget? 

Would Americans accept putting health care on a budget?

NEW YORK TIMES - The intuitive appeal of such a system is growing, and it’s getting a test in Maryland. However, capping hospital spending raises concerns about harming quality and access. Hospital executives and patient advocates might strongly resist spending constraints. A study by HPM's ERIC RO... (04/09/2018)
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Value based payment inequity and reimbursement models with which you should be familiar  

Value based payment inequity and reimbursement models with which you should be familiar

MEDPAGETODAY - Financial incentives and patient care in today’s health care industry are near inseparable. This article delineates some important issues and tips about Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Included are benefits from voluntary bundles, care calculation issues, and a study on inconsi... (03/07/2018)
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