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Author Archives: Brian C. Quinn

NYC Macroscope Puts Data at the Fingertips of City Officials

Aug 22, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

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New York City is helping officials better understand and respond to public health needs by putting data at their fingertips. The NYC Macroscope uses information captured routinely in the doctor’s office to paint a picture of health for the entire city—quickly, accurately and inexpensively. This powerful use of electronic health records has the potential to transform public health decision-making across the country. Learn more in this NewPublicHealth interview with the NYC Macroscope’s Carolyn Greene, MD. — Brian Quinn

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Pitch Us: The First-Ever Pioneer Pitch Day

Aug 13, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

We’re always willing to hear your ideas for how to innovate health and health care—and to change the world in the process. We accept brief proposals through our website 365 days a year. And we read them, every single one, looking for the big idea that has not yet been considered or the seed of an exploration that could lead to that big idea.

On October 16, we’re going to try a little experiment—a new way for you to share your ideas with us: We’ll be hosting our first-ever Pioneer Pitch Day in New York City. Over the course of two hours, eight teams will tell us their vision for how they want to change the world of health and health care—and how they plan to go about doing so. They’ll be peppered with questions from me, my colleagues on the Pioneer team, our grantees and from a few of our friends, including Esther Dyson. Thomas Goetz, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s entrepreneur-in-residence, will be our emcee. (Update: We are excited to announce that Fast Company staff writer Ben Schiller, NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, Games for Health co-founder Ben Sawyer, PatientsLikeMe co-founder and president Ben Heywood, Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, and IDEO Life Sciences Chief Strategist Rodrigo Martinez will be joining us as judges. Stay tuned for additional updates.)

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A Dispatch from the Cutting Edge of Placebo Studies

Jul 9, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) Courtesy of The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS)

It’s a rare and exciting opportunity to witness a new field of research blossom. Although working on the cutting edge is thrilling for those researchers who operate there, day in and day out—it’s also scary. Every step they take leads them into more uncharted territory.

I recently attended the first of five public forums on the science of placebos, hosted by Pioneer grantee the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS). This forum series, co-sponsored by the Pioneer Portfolio, offers rare public access to the small but burgeoning field of placebo studies.

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Big Data Backlash

Jun 5, 2013, 4:01 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

The big data hype cycle is playing out in predictable ways. Perhaps it’s inevitable that, after all the talk about how big data is going to save the world, we’re starting to see a similar rash of stories about how the promise of big data has been oversold. Microsoft Research’s Kate Crawford has been particularly outspoken as of late, with Quentin Hardy recounting her “six myths of big data” in The New York Times last weekend and Kate’s own Foreign Policy piece in May, which pointed out that big data put our privacy at risk, in addition to being susceptible to bias, misunderstanding, limitations and discriminatory outcomes.

I’m all for a little healthy skepticism. In fact, Pioneer seeks out those who are asking questions that others are not. But the potential of big data to take on some of health and health care’s most intractable problems is something we’re excited about here at RWJF. Too many Americans are unhealthy, our health care system isn’t working and I’m confident that effective analysis and use of big data has (at the very least a small) role to play in turning things around. I don’t want this backlash to stifle explorations into what that role could be.

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Introducing What’s Next Health: Conversations with Pioneers

May 15, 2013, 2:15 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

One of the best things about our jobs at Pioneer is that we get to have conversations with interesting people doing interesting things. As we network with these visionary thinkers, we want to share some of the great stuff we’re learning and hearing with you—to bring value to the work you’re doing. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce What's Next Health: Conversations with Pioneers, a new series here at RWJF that explores the future of health and health care, asks the big questions, and looks to the cutting-edge for solutions.

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CRE Bacteria: The Next Superbug Threat in Your Hospital

Apr 2, 2013, 8:30 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria illustration Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria illustration courtesy of the CDC

“Bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics faster than we can stop them. This problem is now a public health crisis: Infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria contribute to more than 99,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone – more than AIDS, traffic accidents, and the flu combined.

At RWJF, we believe today’s health care problems demand innovative solutions. Pioneer grantee Extending the Cure takes a unique approach, looking at this public health problem through an economic lens. They propose comprehensive, incentive-based solutions, such as creating incentives to discourage unnecessary antibiotic use and encourage the development of new drug therapies. ETC also recognizes that while we can't beat the bacteria, we can slow them down if we start to view antibiotics differently. Just like water or trees, we must treat these drugs as a natural resource that can be depleted with overuse.

We all have a role to play in making sure antibiotics are around when we need them. In this post on KevinMD, Dr. Daniel J. Morgan tells us what it’s like to face superbugs in the health care system and points out the critical role that hospitals can, and should, play in the effort to stop them.”  — Brian C. Quinn

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Partnering with Freakonomics to Find Unconventional Approaches to Ending Childhood Obesity

Mar 27, 2013, 4:55 PM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

Solving intractable problems requires unconventional thinking. We recently partnered with some unconventional thinkers—the co-authors of Freakonomics—to convene a conversation on reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity. We were interested in this collaboration because the experts at Freakonomics have a proven track record of thinking creatively and vigorously; they look at difficult problems through new lenses. 

The eclectic group of participants included:

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Calling for Problems: What Did We Hear? What’s Next?

Jan 24, 2013, 11:30 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

In December, we asked our readers to tell us about the health care problems they felt were most in need of innovation—the tough problems, the crucial ones, maybe even those they’d seen firsthand. The number of comments we received was encouraging. It has also challenged our thinking, and generated a great deal of discussion on our team.

One thing is certain: The conversation that ensued from that post confirmed that our team needs to do more listening—listening to patients, caregivers, health care professionals, innovators, thought leaders—the list goes on and on.

We saw some common themes in the problems you shared. A few of them are reflected in areas in which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is already working. Clearly there are problems that, despite the intensive efforts of many really smart people, resist conventional solutions. Other themes showed us how important it is to always be examining what we’re doing from perspectives other than our own. 

So where do we go from here?  

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A Pioneer Auld Lang Syne

Dec 27, 2012, 11:45 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn Brian Quinn, assistant vice president, Research and Evaluation

As New Year’s Eve approaches, let’s take a look at a few of Pioneering Ideas’ greatest hits of 2012 one last time.

We rang in 2012 with a post about an idea Steve Downs called simple and dangerous—OpenNotes, an experiment that has enabled patients to read their doctors’ medical notes. We believe OpenNotes has the potential to transform the way patients engage with health care professionals—and take charge of their health.

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Calling for Problems

Dec 14, 2012, 9:15 AM, Posted by Brian C. Quinn

Brian Quinn / RWJF Brian Quinn

In the Pioneer Portfolio, we’re all about ideas—big ones and little ones—the ones that will help solve some of the toughest problems in health and health care. We have clearly articulated our strategy for investing in innovations and innovators who have the potential to transform areas such as the health care delivery system, the patient-provider relationship, and the education of health care professionals. That strategy has yielded some significant breakthroughs, and the hope for much more to come. 

But we’re still missing a big piece of the puzzle. Why? Because right now, we only hear from the folks who have solutions to offer. That approach, by its very nature, limits the number of problems we know about. Those of us who work on the Pioneer team only see health care from the proverbial 30,000-foot vantage point. We are not on the front lines, so we don’t see firsthand the issues health care providers, patients, and families struggle with every single day.

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