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Funded by Health and Human Services, Department of-Agency for Health Care Research and Quality

Funding Years: 2014 - 2016.

'Value-based purchasing' is a quality improvement strategy that links payment with healthcare outcomes, by paying less or not at all for poor outcomes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seeks to decrease the rate of hospital-acquired complications (HAC) and readmissions by holding hospitals financially accountable using risk-adjusted rates. CMS risk-adjustment models for outcomes of mortality and readmission include patient characteristics from routine administrative discharge data (e.g., diagnosis codes) with age and gender as the only socio-demographic variables. Research suggests other important patient characteristics such as functional status, mobility and level of social support also impact patients? risk for readmission and certain complications (e.g., pressure ulcers). To date, variables such as functional status, mobility and social support have not been included in risk-adjustment models because they are not available in routine discharge data; also, socio-demographic variables (e.g., income or education, which may relate to a patient?s ability to maintain functional status and secure social support) have not been included in risk-adjustment for outcomes due to concerns that adjusting for such factors would be akin to condoning poor care delivered to vulnerable patients. In order to determine how much socio-demographic factors relate as risks for poor hospital outcomes and readmissions (as intrinsic patient factors compared to factors extrinsic to patient and a function of the hospital), a more robust patient-specific data source is required than routine discharge data. To address this question, we will utilize a unique data source to extend our prior work examining the impact of value-based purchasing programs (including non-payment of HACs) on vulnerable patients and hospitals; we will use the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (with detailed data such as a patient?s functional status, mobility, social support, income and educational level) linked to patient-specific Medicare claims data. Our specific aims are:

  1. To assess change in performance of our recently constructed risk-adjusted model for complications of pressure ulcers and urinary track infections as HACs after enhancement with HRS patient-specific measures (e.g., functional status, mobility, social support).
  2. To assess change in performance of CMS?s risk-adjustment models for readmission (for pneumonia, heart failure, myocardial infarction) after enhancement with HRS patient-specific measures.
  3. To evaluate the performance of the HRS-variable enhanced risk-adjustment models for HACs and readmission after replacing some HRS variables with census derived, zip-code level variables (such as median level of education, and income).
  4. Using statewide Medicare claims data; to evaluate the performance of risk-adjustment models for HACs and readmission enhanced by census-data derived zip-code level socio-demographic variables.

PI(s): Laurence McMahon Jr

Co-I(s): Timothy Hofer, Theodore Iwashyna, Kenneth Langa, Jennifer Meddings, Mary AM Rogers

Fraukje Mevissen, PhD


Fraukje Mevissen is an Assistant Professor in Applied Psychology at Maastricht University, Dept. of Work and Social Psychology. Dr. Mevissen was a Visiting Scholar at CBSSM from January-July 2014. For her PhD, she studied risk communication and risk perception regarding sexually transmitted infections among young adults at the department of Health Education and Promotion. She then continued as a postdoc researcher at the W&SP department, focusing on development and evaluation of behavioral/health interventions.

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Dr. Jeff Kullgren and Dr. John Ayanian testified before the Michigan Health Care Cost and Quality Advisory Committee regarding the feasibility of and policy options for creating an All-Payer Claims Database (APCD) in Michigan.

Established by the Healthy Michigan Legislation (PA 107 of 2013), the Committee is composed of cabinet-level leadership from the state's Departments of Community Health and Insurance and Financial Services, as well as leadership from the Michigan House and Senate Health Policy Committees. The Committee is tasked with reviewing existing efforts across the United State to make health care cost and quality more transparent. Dr. Ayanian and Dr. Kullgren shared their research and practical expertise with the Committee by discussing a broad range of issues related to the feasibility of an APCD in Michigan, including governance structure; funding sources; data collection, storage, and security issues; and opportunities for research and innovation. 

[ From IHPI Policy Corner]

2015 CBSSM Research Colloquium and Bishop Lecture (Lawrence O. Gostin, J.D., LL.D Hon.)

Tue, March 17, 2015, 8:30am to 4:00pm
Alumni Center, 200 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor, MI

The Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM) Research Colloquium was held Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at the Founders Room, Alumni Center, 200 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor, MI.

The CBSSM Research Colloquium featured the Bishop Lecture in Bioethics as the keynote address.  Lawrence O. Gostin, J.D., LL.D (Hon.) presented the Bishop Lecture with a talk entitled: "Law, Ethics, and Public Health in the Vaccination Debates: Politics of the Measles Outbreak."

Lawrence Gostin is University Professor, Georgetown University’s highest academic rank conferred by the University President. Prof. Gostin directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and is the Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law. He is Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University, Professor of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University, and Director of the Center for Law & the Public’s Health at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities. Prof. Gostin is also the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Public Health Law & Human Rights.

The 2015 Research Colloquium Presentation Schedule:

  • 8:30 AM -- Check in & refreshments
  • 9:00 AM -- Welcome
  • 9:15 AM -- Aaron Scherer, PhD, CBSSM Postdoctoral Fellow: "Elephants, Donkeys, and Medicine: Political Differences in Health Risk Perceptions and Adherence to Medical Recommendations"
  • 9:45 AM -- Natalie Bartnik, MPH, Research Associate, HBHE Genetics Research Group, UM School of Public Health: "Why, how and when oncologists disclose genome sequencing results in clinical practice"
  • 10:15 AM -- Michele Gornick, PhD, MICHR PTSP Postdoctoral Fellow, VA HSRD Fellow & CBSSM Research Investigator: "Information and deliberation make a difference: The public’s preferences for the return of secondary genomic findings"
  • 10:45 AM -- Break
  • 11:00 AM -- Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, LLD (Hon.), 2015 Bishop Lecture in Bioethics: "Law, Ethics, and Public Health in the Vaccination Debates: Politics of the Measles Outbreak"
  • 12:30 PM -- Lunch
  • 1:30 PM -- Stephanie Kukora, MD and Nathan Gollehon, MD, Fellows, Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, UM Mott Children’s Hospital: "Epidemiology of outpatient prenatal consultation: implications for decision-making and perinatal outcomes"
  • 2:00 PM -- Minnie Bluhm, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences, Eastern Michigan University: "Oncologists' decisions about administering late chemotherapy: What makes it so difficult?"
  • 2:30 PM -- Break
  • 2:45 PM -- Danielle Czarnecki, PhD Candidate, UM Department of Sociology: "Moral Women, Immoral Technologies: How Devout Women Negotiate Maternal Desires, Religion, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies"
  • 3:15 PM -- Uchenna Ezeibe, MD, Resident Physician, UMHS Department of Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases: "Pediatric Ethics Consultation Service at a Tertiary Hospital: A Retrospective Review"

Announcement of Position: Clinician Ethicist

Announcement of Position: Clinician Ethicist

The Program in Clinical Ethics within the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM) represents an expansion of existing services designed to promote a culture of patient-centered excellence by developing a comprehensive set of ethics-related activities. The aims of this program are to: liaise with and provide support to the adult and pediatrics ethics committees; streamline clinical ethics consultation; assist with ethics-related policy development on a regular and proactive basis; organize and administer structured educational programs in clinical ethics; and coordinate empiric research with relevance to clinical ethics within CBSSM.

Program Organization
The Program in Clinical Ethics is co-directed by the chairs of the adult and pediatric ethics committees and consultation services, Christian J. Vercler, MD MA and Andrew G. Shuman, MD. A dedicated clinician ethicist will manage the program on a daily basis. A cadre of eight faculty ethicists will rotate on service throughout the year and work closely with the clinician ethicist. Trainees and students will rotate as well. Dedicated administrative support will be organized through CBSSM.

One individual will serve as the program’s clinical ethicist. This individual will serve as the “first responder” and contact person for all ethics consults during business hours, ensure continuity with consults, and work in conjunction with faculty ethicists. The role will include arranging team/family meetings, ensuring follow-ups on all consults, and arranging additional consultations as needed for selected cases. He/she will also regularly review relevant institutional policies and attend all ethics committee meetings. Another major component of this role will be to organize and participate in educational efforts and preventative ethics rounds. This position will provide $50,000 of direct salary support annually, to be distributed and allocated in conjunction with their home department. The initial appointment will last two years and is renewable.

Candidates are expected to be employees or faculty at UMHS with a master’s or equivalent terminal degree in their field; any professional background is acceptable. Direct experience with clinical ethics consultation is required. Familiarity with ethics education and related clinical research would be helpful. Excellent organizational and communication skills across multidisciplinary medical fields are required. Candidates are expected to have qualifications that meet the standards outlined by The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) for accreditation for clinical ethics consultants.

Application Process
Candidates will be vetted, interviewed and chosen by a nomination committee. Candidates are asked to submit:

  • Curriculum vitae or resume
  • One page maximum summary of (1) education/training related to ethics consultation; (2) clinical ethics consultation experience; and (3) motivation/interest in the position
  • Letter of support from Department Chair/Division Head/Center Director or equivalent
  • Submit formal application via email to:


  • Application is due December 11, 2015 with interviews shortly thereafter
  • Appointment will take effect January 1, 2016


  • Co-Directors of the Program in Clinical Ethics: Christian J. Vercler, MD MA & Andrew G. Shuman, MD
  • Administrative contact: Valerie Kahn – 734 615 5371

2018 Bishop Lecture featuring Barbara Koenig, PhD

Tue, May 01, 2018, 11:15am
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Henderson Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI

The 2018 Bishop Lecture in Bioethics will be presented by Barbara Koenig, PhD, Professor of Bioethics and Medical Anthropology and Director of UCSF Bioethics at the University of California, San Francisco. Professor Koenig will present a talk entitled, " Does Enhancing Individual Choice and Control Promote Freedom? Challenges in Contemporary Bioethics." The Bishop Lecture will serves as the keynote address during the CBSSM Research Colloquium.

Abstract: Over the past three decades, the discipline of bioethics has advocated for enhanced patient choice and control over a range of medical decisions, from care near the end of life to participation in clinical research. Using two current policy challenges in California—1) the advent of legally sanctioned medical aid in dying and, 2) efforts to share UC Health “big data” from the electronic health record in research with private sector partners—Professor Koenig will explore how current bioethics practices may unintentionally and ironically impede our shared goals of promoting human freedom.

Barbara A. Koenig, PhD is Professor of Bioethics and Medical Anthropology, based at the Institute for Health & Aging, University of California, San Francisco. She is the Director of “UCSF Bioethics,” a nascent program that spans ethics research, clinical ethics, and ethics education across the university’s four professional schools. Prof. Koenig pioneered the use of empirical methods in the study of ethical questions in science, medicine, and health. Prof. Koenig’s current focus is emerging genomic technologies, including biobanking policy and using deliberative democracy to engage communities about research governance. Her work has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1991. Currently, she: 1) directs the ELSI component of a NICHD award focused on newborn screening in an era of whole genome analysis, 2) is P.I. of UCSF’s Program in Prenatal and Pediatric Genomic Sequencing (P3EGS), part of the CSER2 national network, and, 3) is supported by NCI to conduct an “embedded ethics” study of the Athena “Wisdom” PCORI-funded clinical trial of genomic risk-stratified breast cancer prevention. Previously, she directed an NHGRI-funded “Center of Excellence” in ELSI Research. Prof. Koenig was the founding executive director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University; she created and led the Bioethics Research Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco joint program in Medical Anthropology. She is an active participant in policy, having served on the ethics committee that advises the director of the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services “Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing.” She recently served on a state-wide “Health Data Governance Task Force” which advised UC’s president.

The Privileged Choices (Jan-08)

What's the difference between opting in and opting out of an activity? Who decides if people will be put automatically into one category or another? Click this interactive decision to learn how default options work.

Scenario 1

Imagine that you're a US Senator and that you serve on the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The Infectious Diseases Society of America has come before your committee because they believe that too many health care workers are getting sick with influenza ("flu") each year and infecting others. As a result, your Senate committee is now considering a new bill that would require that all health care workers get annual influenza vaccinations ("flu shots") unless the worker specifically refuses this vaccination in writing.

Do you think you would support this bill for mandatory flu shots for health care workers?

  • Yes
  • No

Scenario 2

Imagine that you're the human resources director at a mid-sized company that's initiating an employee retirement plan. Management is concerned that many employees are not saving enough for retirement. They're considering a policy that would automatically deduct retirement contributions from all employees' wages unless the employee fills out and submits a form requesting exemption from the automatic deductions.

Do you think a policy of automatic retirement deductions is reasonable for your company to follow?

  • Yes 
  • No

Scenario 3

Organ transplants save many lives each year, but there are always too many deserving patients and too few organs available. To try to improve the number of organs available for donation, the state legislature in your state is considering a new policy that all people who die under certain well-defined circumstances will have their organs donated to others. The system would start in three years, after an information campaign. People who do not want to have their organs donated would be given the opportunity to sign a refusal of organ donation when they renewed their drivers' licenses or state ID cards, which expire every three years. Citizens without either of these cards could also sign the refusal at any drivers' license office in the state. This is a policy similar to ones already in place in some European countries.

Does this seem like an appropriate policy to you?

  • Yes 
  • No

How do your answers compare?

For many decisions in life, people encounter default options-that is, events or conditions that will be set in place if they don't actively choose an alternative. Some default options have clear benefits and are relatively straightforward to implement, such as having drug prescriptions default to "generic" unless the physician checks the "brand necessary" box. Others are more controversial, such as the automatic organ donation issue that you made a decision about.

Default options can strongly influence human behavior. For example, employees are much more likely to participate in a retirement plan if they're automatically enrolled (and must ask to be removed, or opt out) than if they must actively opt in to the plan. Researchers have found a number of reasons for this influence of default options, including people's aversion to change.

But default options can seem coercive also. So, an Institute of Medicine committee recently recommended against making organ donation automatic in the US. One reason was the committee's concern that Americans might not fully understand that they could opt out of donation or exactly how they could do so.

The policy scenarios presented to you here have been excerpted from a 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Harnessing the Power of Default Options to Improve Health Care," by Scott D. Halpern, MD, PhD, Peter A. Ubel, MD, and David A. Asch, MD, MBA. Dr. Ubel is the Director of the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine.

This article provides guidance for policy-makers in setting default options, specifically in health care. Generally, default options in health care are intended to promote the use of interventions that improve care, reduce the use of interventions that put patients at risk, or serve broader societal agendas, such as cost containment.

In this NEJM article, the researchers argue that default options are often unavoidable-otherwise, how would an emergency-room physician decide on care for an uninsured patient? Many default options already exist but are hidden. Without either returning to an era of paternalism in medicine or adopting a laissez-faire approach, the authors present ways to use default options wisely but actively, based on clear findings in the medical literature.

Some examples of default policies that may improve health care quality:

  • routine HIV testing of all patients unless they opt out.
  • removal of urinary catheters in hospital patients after 72 hours unless a nurse or doctor documents why the catheter should be retained.
  • routine ventilation of all newly intubated patients with lung-protective settings unless or until other settings are ordered.

Drs. Halpern, Ubel, and Asch conclude, "Enacting policy changes by manipulating default options carries no more risk than ignoring such options that were previously set passively, and it offers far greater opportunities for benefit."

Read the article:

Harnessing the power of default options to improve health care.
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Asch DA. New England Journal of Medicine 2007;357:1340-1344.

Brian Zikmund-Fisher,  Angela Fagerlin, Nicole Exe, and Knoll Larkin have been involved in the Visualizing Health Project, which has recently launched an online style guide  for communicating health data. You can check it out at:

The Visualizing Health project was a short and highly intense project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to push the envelope both in considering visual designs for communicating health risk data and in developing iterative research approaches for testing them. The project involved a large team combining researchers and staff from both the University of Michigan's Center for Health Communications Research and the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine. The UM team then worked closely on a week by week basis with Thomas Goetz (former editor of Wired magazine) who envisioned the project, Tim Leong (graphic designer, author of Super Graphic), Andrea Ducas from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and teams of graphic designers that Tim recruited.

They created 16 distinct visual data display tasks related to health risks, had teams of graphic designers develop display concepts, and iteratively tested these displays using multiple online survey methodologies. The resulting designs and data were then assembled in a project website that included all the images, plus commentary and additional features such as a design "wizard" to help guide users to visual displays that best fit their personal needs.

Also, see the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of health blog.

Alan R. Tait, PhD


Dr. Tait is the Department of Anesthesiology Endowed Professor of Clinical Research. Dr. Tait is a former long-standing member of the Institutional Review Board and a current member of the Medical School Admissions Executive Committee. In addition, Dr. Tait is the Chair of the Research Committee for the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia.

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