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InHealth awards grants to study impact of medical diagnostics and devices on patients, health care

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Institute for Health Technology Studies (InHealth) has awarded $1.7 million in grants over the next two years to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, Medical College of Georgia, Tufts University and the University of Houston.

The funding allows scientists to examine the economic and social impact of diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices on treating diseases and chronic medical conditions.

Researchers will explore the cost-benefit effects of insulin pumps, hearing aids, in-vitro diagnostics, genomic diagnostics for personalized medicine and devices used to treat sleep apnea. The new funding continues InHealth's mission of supporting objective research that evaluates the value and social and economic impact of medical technology. It comes at a time when rising health care costs, the aging baby boom generation and increasing numbers of uninsured patients magnify critical issues related to health policy.

"Health issues reduce the quality of life for millions of Americans while incurring a heavy economic burden on patients and the health care system," said InHealth Executive Director Martyn Howgill. "Medical technology plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease and while the intuitive evidence clearly suggests that medical technology benefits the patient, there's little objective evidence of its value to policy makers and regulators."

Howgill said that InHealth is working to build evidence about the contributions of technology to patients and society and to make sure that the information is within reach of policy makers and health leaders.

This is the third round of grants awarded since InHealth began funding research in 2005. To date, InHealth has allocated more than $4 million toward research grants. Current studies that have appeared or await publication in peer-reviewed journals focus on total hip and knee replacements, cardiac stents, implantable defibrillators, neonatal care and diagnostic imaging. Findings from this new round of research are expected in 2009 and 2010. Grant details are listed below.

Johns Hopkins Researchers Study Preferences for Hearing Aids

An estimated 28 million people in the U.S. have a hearing impairment and it is predicted that by 2025, about 60 million people over age 65 will be hearing impaired. To better address previously reported underutilization and poor compliance of hearing aid use, Johns Hopkins University was awarded a one-year grant of $200,000 to study the economic value of hearing aids and associated technologies. Led by John Bridges, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Health and Policy Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the research team will survey patients about their preferences to determine attributes about hearing aids that patients find most important. The team intends to demonstrate the significance of patient preference in evaluating hearing aids and estimate the potential economic impact of increased use on the health care system and society.

Medical College of Georgia Examines the Socio-Economic Impact of Insulin Pumps

In light of the more than 20 million adults and children in the U.S. living with diabetes , researchers at the Medical College of Georgia were awarded a $491,344, two-year grant to study the impact of insulin pumps on the social, cultural and economic aspects of patient and family life. Led by Max E. Stachura, M.D., director, Center for Telehealth, Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, the research team will compare patients who use insulin pump therapy to patients using conventional intensive injection insulin therapy. Researchers expect to draw conclusions about ability to control glucose, patient life style, diabetes-induced disruption of patient relationships with family and co-workers, and patient and significant other satisfaction levels.

Northwestern University Looks at Technology's Impact on Severe Sleep Disorder

According to the Institute of Medicine, as many as 6 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a severe sleep disorder that can lead to obesity, diabetes, stroke and depression and a profound economic impact on the health care system. Researchers John Linehan, Ph.D., professor of Medicine and Bioengineering at Northwestern University, and Jan Pietzsch, Ph.D., professor in Stanford University's Department of Management Science and Engineering, will apply the one year, $191,231 grant to deliver new insights about the role of medical technology in diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea. The team will explore efficacy, cost-effectiveness and access to diagnostic and therapeutic technology used to treat the disorder. Researchers will build a predictive model to assess the effects of improved diagnosis and treatment of the condition that can be used for future policy and technology development.

Tufts University Measuring the Value of Diagnostic Technology

Diagnostic testing continues to be one of the fastest growing fields in health care, driven in part by evidence that the technologies improve survival for patients by assisting in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer and congestive heart failure. The value of diagnostic technology, however, is often poorly documented or understood. The nation's escalating health care costs have prompted policy-makers to call for stronger clinical and economic evidence of improved patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness. Researchers at Tufts University, led by Peter J. Neumann, Sc.D, director of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, will apply the two-year, $400,000 grant to examine the method by which in-vitro diagnostic technology's value is measured from several angles, which include exploring published cost-analyses and conducting a survey to gauge preferences for diagnostic testing. The study aims to be the most comprehensive analysis of cost-effectiveness to date.

University of Houston to Analyze How Patients Value Genomic Devices

Personalized medicine is increasingly being adopted into clinical practice, but there has been little research to understand how testing and the prescribing of drugs will be adopted by patients. A research team at the University of Houston was awarded a $398,000, two-year grant to analyze the willingness of patients from different socio-economic backgrounds to adopt and use genomic devices for tailoring drug-prescription, including the willingness to pay for novel genomic diagnostics. Dr. Amalia M. Issa, associate professor and director of the Program in Personalized Medicine at the University of Houston, will examine patient preferences when it comes to personalized medicine and the trade-offs that patients make in deciding whether to use pharmacogenomic testing, which identifies patients who are likely to have the most (or least) toxicity from a drug. The findings are expected to contribute to understanding of what technologies are used, how they are incorporated into medical practice, and which populations have access to and use them.


Contact: Anthony Rifilato
InHealth: The Institute for Health Technology Studies

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