January 2013

Top-ten Group Health research stories of 2012

From studies of shared decision making to cancer screening, Group Health Research Institute often captures health news headlines. The reason?  We do practical research to help people like you and your family stay healthy. Group Health research was mentioned more than 1,800 times in national and local media in 2012. Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter carried our findings even further. Based on volume of media coverage, here are the year’s top-ten Group Health research studies and links to some of the coverage they generated:

  1. Shared decision making: Knee and hip replacements, and their associated costs, dipped sharply at Group Health after patient decision aids were introduced. The GHRI study in Health Affairs attracted coverage by Time magazine (and The New America Foundation), Seattle Times, The Atlantic, Puget Sound Business Journal, and more.
  2. Opioid safety: Group Health’s opioid safety initiative—described in a 2011 Health Affairs report—continues to be hailed in media including The New York Times front page as a model to emulate. And GHRI helped organize a national summit on opioid prescribing practices, which KPLU, BMJ, and other media covered.
  3. Heart problems with cancer drugs: A GHRI study found breast cancer patients treated with two chemotherapy drugs—anthracycline, trastuzumab, or both—may have more heart problems than previously shown. Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the study was widely covered by news syndicates such as HealthDay.
  4. Rise in diagnostic imaging: Use of medical imaging and its radiation exposure has grown in recent years—even within large integrated health care systems, reported researchers at GHRI and the University of California, San Francisco. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study was covered by ABC News, WebMD, and many others.
  5. Diabetes and bariatric surgery: Can gastric bypass surgery “cure” diabetes? In a study in Obesity Surgery, GHRI researchers and colleagues found 56 percent of patients had no long-lasting remission, but those with earlier, less severe diabetes were more likely to benefit. Media coverage included The New York Times and Reuters.
  6. Genetic testing: Demand for health services does not increase as a result of patients getting genetic tests that indicate their risk for disease, according to a GHRI study in Genetics in Medicine. American Medical News and various news services covered the work.
  7. Diabetes and naturopathic care: Patients with diabetes who added naturopathic visits to their to conventional care had benefits including lower blood sugar, better moods, and improved eating and exercise habits. These findings, from investigators at GHRI and Bastyr University, appeared in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine and were covered by a Huffington Post blogger and several health websites.
  8. Dementia and preventable hospitalizations: People with dementia had more avoidable hospitalizations than did those without the condition, leading researchers at the University of Washington (UW) and GHRI to suggest opportunities for improving outpatient care for this population. This research in JAMA was reported by HealthDay and other news services.
  9. TEAMcare, depression, chronic illness, and costs: The UW/GHRI team that developed and disseminated the TEAMcare approach to helping patients with depression and chronic illness published two studies that earned attention last year. A January 2012 study in Annals of Family Medicine showed the model helped patients manage their illness. A later study in Archives of General Psychiatry reported the approach seems cost-effective. Media such as American Medical News, MedPage Today, and the JAMA news blog spread the findings.
  10. Breast cancer screening for women in their 40s: Dense breast tissue and a family history of breast cancer are risk factors that may tip the balance in favor of regular mammograms for women in their 40s, according to research that GHRI investigators and colleagues from the Breast Cancer Screening Consortium published last spring. Their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine were widely covered by national media including CNN and NPR.

In addition to publishing original research, some Group Health scientists also make the news by contributing to important health policy decisions. The most prominent example is David Grossman, MD, MPH, a GHRI senior investigator and Group Health pediatrician who is Group Health’s medical director for population and purchaser strategy. Also a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Dr. Grossman spoke often to national media last year about the Task Force’s recommendations on screening for obesity, skin cancer, ovarian cancer, and preventing teens from smoking.

Continued interest in GHRI’s evaluation of the medical home model of primary care also continues to spur media interest. And two GHRI activities kicked up considerable traffic on Twitter last year: One was the publication of a paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine describing Group Health as a learning health care system. The other was the 2012 HMO Research Network annual conference and its keynote address by former Medicare administrator Don Berwick, MD, MPP, which GHRI hosted in Seattle last spring.

--by Joan DeClaire


More in this issue