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December 10, 2001

Emory, Aetna form new health care outcomes center

By Sylvia Wrobel


Emory and Aetna announced last month that the U.S. Quality Algorithms (USQA) Center for Health Care Research, an Aetna affiliate, has become the cornerstone of the newly formed Emory Center on Health Outcomes and Quality (ECHOQ). This agreement immediately establishes one of the largest groups in the nation in health research directed at assessing quality of health care to improve medical outcomes.

“Aetna is delighted that Emory, one of the nation’s preeminent academic research centers, shares our belief in the center and its research mission, and sees the value of creating this unique public-private partnership,” said Aetna CEO John Rowe. “We believe that a strategic relationship with Emory will enable us to explore new ways to collaborate on joint research initiatives directed toward the quality and cost-effectiveness of patient care.”

Kenneth Thorpe has been named ECHOQ director. Currently he is chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Rollins School of Public Health, where the center is housed.

“Being able to incorporate this strong, experienced Aetna research team into the new [ECHOQ] provides a jump start to achieving our objectives of linking clinicians with health services researchers to look at issues of cost and quality,” Thorpe said. “This provides an unusual opportunity for Emory—integrating academically trained research-ers who had been working hands, on in the private sector [and] looking at issues of quality and outcomes. We are pleased and excited that they will be able to bring that experience to bear in this new research center.”

This arrangement moves the USQA Center for Health Care Research, and a highly experienced group of 14 researchers and staff, from the private sector of Aetna into the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC), one of the nation’s fastest-growing academic health sciences centers.

It is expected that ECHOQ will maintain an ongoing relationship with Aetna for collaborative research initiatives that may include access to the extensive data resources of USQA, the performance and outcomes measurement subsidiary of Aetna. Aetna will continue to support and collaborate on relevant research undertaken at the Emory center for a minimum of two years.

ECHOQ is a multischool, multidisciplinary center that was created to conduct outcomes-based research, which includes assessing and improving methods for measuring quality of care and designing interventions to improve health outcomes. In addition to research, the center will focus on education by offering a long-distance Master of Public Health degree in outcomes research. It also will focus on service and applications, working with consumers, physicians and insurers to evaluate and implement new approaches for improving quality of care.

“In a time when there are documented issues concerning health care costs and quality, the Emory Center on Health Outcomes and Quality can make a major contribution toward solving some of these pressing issues,” said Michael Johns, executive vice president for Health Affairs. “We are particularly pleased that we have been able to work closely with Aetna to accomplish the goal of adding the talents of the USQA Center for Health Care Research to our multifaceted organization.”

Based in Atlanta, the USQA Center for Health Care Research has produced research-based knowledge and methods to help health plans, physicians and hospitals enhance the quality and cost-effectiveness of patient care. Last year, the USQA center was one of nine research consortia awarded a contract by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to establish the Integrated Delivery System Research Network. This new model of field-based research links top researchers in the nation with some of the country’s largest health care systems.

In recognition of Aetna’s contribution to the creation of the Emory center, WHSC will establish a lecture series that will focus on health outcomes and quality research..


Back to Emory Report December 10, 2001