Hospitalist to Tackle National Quality Issues


David Meltzer, MD, PhD, a hospitalist and medical researcher at the University of Chicago, is one of 15 appointees who were named in January to the Methodology Committee of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which was created by last year's Accountable Care Act to advise the federal government on clinical-effectiveness research (CER).

Dr. Meltzer, chief of UC's Division of Hospital Medicine and director of the Center for Health and Social Sciences in Chicago, has been active in a number of areas of advanced medical research, including technology assessment, CER, value-of-information research, and prioritization of the research agenda. One of his research topics has been whether hospitalists reduce length of stay and costs.

"Healthcare is a very complicated issue, for a bunch of reasons," he says. "It costs a lot of money, and it matters to a lot of people."

Last year's health-reform debate demonstrated how complicated it can be, with CER itself the target of some controversy. The challenge for PCORI is “to increase the information available to make the best choices regarding the application of medical treatments," he explains.

According to Dr. Meltzer, who also sits on the Congressional Budget Office's panel of health advisors, the reality is that physicians use medical evidence to guide treatment decisions every day. "But there are major holes in what we know and don't know. I would hope that PCORI will help to fill in those major holes more quickly," he adds.

If CER is done effectively, Dr. Meltzer says, hospitalists and other clinicians could find themselves and their patients more frequently involved in research and data generation, making it increasingly important to explain to patients why this sort of research is important.

"He has not only been a leader in hospital medicine, but also a noted health economist and researcher," says Margaret Fang, MD, a hospitalist at the University of California at San Francisco. "All of these skills will be vitally important when addressing issues in comparative-effectiveness research."

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