Lisa at ARM

Next week our field will come together virtually at our Annual Research Meeting (ARM). I look forward to this flagship event every summer and I know many in our health services research (HSR) community do as well. The agenda is always packed with cutting-edge research and thought-provoking plenaries. It’s also a time for our field to honor our HSR Rockstars and set a course for where we want to make progress in the coming year.

In many ways, it feels like a reunion. Of course, the thing about reunions is that they only provide us with a snapshot of the present moment in our loved ones’ lives. Similarly, ARM provides a snapshot of the field of HSR, but health services and policy researchers are working year-round to understand more about how the health system is working and how to make it better.

This year’s meeting falls at a particularly important moment of inflection in our field and in the world. The last year and a half has brought a cascade of personal and collective traumas. Of course, there is the impact a global pandemic has had on our personal and professional lives, but there’s also been a long overdue recognition of and reaction to systemic racism, multiple mass shootings, a polarizing presidential election, severe weather events, and a struggling economy. I think it’s safe to say the events of the past 15 months have caused us all to re-evaluate our priorities. Here at AcademyHealth, we moved quickly at the direction of our board of directors to prioritize three cross-cutting areas of focus:

  • Science Innovation
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Health Systems Improvement, Resilience, and Capacity

When it comes to science innovation, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how we as a field had been settled in a normal that worked for some, but most certainly not all, for a very long time. AcademyHealth’s Paradigm Project is pushing us to rethink the HSR ecosystem using human-center design to accelerate work on a number of promising innovations – such as new approaches to funding models, strategies to increase societal impact of research, and what we can learn from other disciplines about how to evolve HSR to be more relevant and timely.

While our new strategic plan explicitly names diversity and inclusion as a core value, we know that real change comes from concerted, intentional and sustained effort. We are integrating this value into all of our programmatic activities, policies, and procedures – from internal staff trainings to adjusting our policies and nominating criteria to reduce structural barriers and engage more diverse voices. Early this year, we announced the formation of an Advisory Group on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Health Services Research. Their recommendations will be presented at next week’s ARM, but our work to fulfill them will be ongoing.  

Finally, we know that in order for evidence to make a difference in lives, it must be moved into the practice of care delivery. Reflecting work from a partnership between AcademyHealth, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Kaiser Permanente with additional support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a forthcoming special issue in Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation considers the impact of embedded research on solving the disconnect between health care organizations and health services researchers. Articles in the issue will address the following themes related to the role of effective embedded research programs:

  • Organizational arrangements, including governance, staffing, and funding
  • Research support for management decisions
  • Data resources and use
  • Strengthening the embedded research community
  • Accelerating implementation of embedded research output

ARM attendees will certainly notice our three priority areas in sessions and plenaries across the meeting’s comprehensive agenda, but those who don’t engage with AcademyHealth year-round may have missed thoughtful white papers, invitations for input into DEI issues, active advocacy in Congress and the Executive Branch as well as of-the-minute research agendas fueled by input from health system leaders. We’re all doing so much more than what we can fit into a multi-day annual meeting!

In the following posts in this #MoreThanAMeeting blog series, you’ll hear from AcademyHealth staff and members about how we work year-round to fulfill our mission to improve health and health care for all by advancing evidence to inform policy and practice by:

  • Serving as the leading advocate for HSR at the federal level;
  • Assessing and meeting the needs of the field through learning opportunities to help our members advance their careers and increase their impact;
  • Supporting the broader research community by managing grant-making programs with a focus on dissemination support; and
  • Hosting and facilitating learning networks that contribute to the financial, human, and data infrastructure necessary to improve research and translate findings to policymakers.

The best way to ensure you never miss the latest on any of our year-round work is to join us as a member. I would also encourage you to follow us on Twitter @AcademyHealth and use the hashtag #ARM21. In the meantime, I look forward to “seeing” many of you next week in the halls of our virtual ARM!

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