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BIDMC’s New Center for Healthcare Delivery Science

By Michael Howell, MD, MPH , Executive Director, HDS; Director of Critical Care Quality; and Intensivist

The following is an excerpt from BIDMC Matters, a regular, internal series of first-person columns written by BIDMC leaders.

It's an interesting paradox. We know more today about predicting, diagnosing and treating human disease than at any time in human history - as a result of the groundbreaking basic, clinical and translational research conducted here and at similar institutions across the world. But, the science of how we actually deliver that care to real patients, right now, is just emerging.

Today, BIDMC is positioning itself to become a leader in this new field of healthcare delivery science - an area of research that combines innovation, continual improvement, implementation science and rigorous research-quality evaluation methodologies. Why are we so well-positioned to take this leap? First, we are really good at delivering high-quality, innovative care. Just last week BIDMC was recognized by Thomson Reuters as one of the nation's 100 top major teaching hospitals; we were the only Boston hospital cited in the 2012 rankings. This is just one of the many national awards that have recognized our ability to design and implement the some of the world's most effective approaches to delivering safe, high quality patient care. In addition to awards in healthcare quality and safety, we are also national heavyweights when it comes to research. We consistently rank among the top four independent U.S. teaching hospitals in National Institutes of Health research funding. Whether it is winning major international awards for cancer research, leading vaccine research consortia, or writing major health policy articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, BIDMC researchers are doing it.

What we have not done - until now - is work systematically to combine the two, research and operational innovation. Although it is true that we have had several definite pockets of success in this arena (two examples are in sepsis care and protecting our patients from medication errors), it is also true that researchers, administrators, and clinicians have not had an obvious mechanism or the infrastructure to work together on common problems in a way that applies research-quality methods to real-world operational problems here at BIDMC. Nor have we systematically used operational priorities to inform new research questions. To me, this seems like a tremendous missed opportunity: we sit at the literal epicenter of operational innovation and groundbreaking healthcare research, but we haven't systematically united the two.

With the launch of the Center for Healthcare Delivery Science, announced by BIDMC in April, we are working to change that. The Center's mission is to lead the medical center's efforts in applying rigorous, high-quality science to the evaluation of real-world innovations aimed at improving the quality, safety and value of health care. We are early in our journey, but the Center will serve as a shared resource for any BIDMC investigator - regardless of department - interested in the scientific evaluation of operational innovations, and we will work collaboratively with them to pursue high-value projects that benefit our patients and improve the value of health care both locally and nationally. We will leverage the existing InSIGHT Research Core, along with other targeted expansions of capabilities, in pursuit of this mission. More on this to follow, and please feel free to reach out if you'd like to talk about how the new Center might play a role in developing your research ideas.

Contact Information

Center for Healthcare Delivery Science
Michael D. Howell, MD, MPH, Director
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215