The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will provide up to $1.9 million to researchers and their clinical partners in an attempt to better evaluate how consumers define "value" in new healthcare delivery models such as telemedicine, and how those definitions may differ from providers' perceptions.

"While 'value' is typically defined as outcomes relative to costs, individual consumers’ valuation of health care services may not align with how insurers, hospitals, providers, or even other consumers perceive high-value care or outcomes," RWJF executives said. "The consumer perspective may be more expansive, encompassing the convenience and accessibility of services or the empathy felt in the doctor-patient relationship, in addition to more conventional measures of value. Understanding the consumer point of view is essential, particularly in terms of the cost, quality or other information that would be relevant when consumers seek care, buy and use insurance, and shop for health care services."

Among the topics the foundation is encouraging researchers to study are: how consumers view the value proposition in "non-traditional" care settings such as telemedicine virtual visits and walk-in retail clinics; how insurers and provider organizations can best align their formal educational and marketing efforts with the ad hoc word-of-mouth way in which many consumers receive their healthcare information from family and friends; and how best to capitalize on "shoppable moments," when consumers are most open to making decisions on their healthcare finance and service needs.

Foundation executives say funded studies will cover a diverse set of topics and will help inform the development of tools, resources and policies to support consumers in making high-value decisions that benefit them and other stakeholders.

Five to nine studies, each to be awarded between $200,000 and $400,000, will be funded. Entry deadline is March 3. More information is available here.

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