On January 25, Dr. Jack Wennberg, the Peggy Y. Thompson Professor of Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth Medical School, was invited to discuss the future of the American health care delivery system alongside Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Congressman Jim Cooper, U.S. Representative of Tennessee’s 5th district. Dr. Wennberg, the forefather of geographic variation and outcomes research and the founder of the Dartmouth Atlas project, discussed his recently released book, Tracking Medicine: A Researchers Quest to Understand Health Care, and offered his suggestions for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Of particular interest was the potential impact of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to coordinate the delivery of services across a wide range of providers. Wennberg offered numerous policy prescriptions for what he views as the central challenges facing the current health care system, in particular chronic disease management and combating the epidemic of overtreatment. He also acknowledged the central importance of shared decision making and decision aids in redefining the doctor-patient relationship.
Dr. Carolyn Clancy echoed the points laid out in Dr. Wennberg’s presentation, and highlighted the pivotal role of the Dartmouth Atlas in the creation and development of AHRQ. Underscoring the current lack of evidence in the practice of clinical medicine and its link to outcomes variation, she advocated for the incorporation of newly developed evidence-based guidelines and patient preferences into the fabric of every medical decision. Dr. Clancy expressed a hope that the newly created Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute would align public and private priorities in health services research.
The event was capped off with Congressman Jim Cooper’s praise for the impact of Dr. Wennberg’s trailblazing research. He laid out the challenge of translating the work of the Dartmouth Institute into efficient, patient-centered care. “We are starved for information,” he said, highlighting the incredible asymmetry in knowledge between American physicians and patients. “Dr. Wennberg is a giant,” Cooper declared. “You should buy his book and get him to sign it, because it will be the equivalent of having Einstein sign your book. [...] It is revolutionary. Most of American still can’t handle what Jack Wennberg started thinking up 40 years ago.”