VCU School of Medicine to Compare Health Care Delivery Strategies

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine has received a $1.2 million grant to compare the Virginia Coordinated Care program with the traditional safety net delivery system.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, recently awarded a total of $473 million in Comparative Effectiveness Delivery System Evaluation grants and contracts to support patient-centered outcomes research projects at institutions across the country. The research will help people make solid health care decisions by providing evidence on the efficacy, benefits and harms of different treatment options. The evidence is generated from research studies that compare drugs, medical devices, tests, surgeries or ways to deliver health care in real-world settings.

“The passage of health care finance reform transformed the uninsured into potential Medicaid and commercial pay patients,” said Wally R. Smith, M.D., professor of medicine, and chair of the Division of Quality Health Care in the VCU School of Medicine, who is the principal investigator on the VCU project. “New Patient-Centered Medical Home programs and Accountable Care Organizations are envisioned in the legislation. They are intended to improve quality and efficiency of care for vulnerable patients. However, research evaluating how well these structures work is in its infancy.

“Our Virginia Coordinated Care program, which began in 2000, is a forerunner of these programs, Smith said. “This important work will determine whether and how the program was effective. We believe our work will provide policy makers and other health systems across the country with evidence and templates to better care for the uninsured.”

Smith and his team will compare the effectiveness of the VCC with the traditional safety net delivery system at reducing the frequency of emergency department utilization, hospital utilization and adverse health outcomes among the uninsured patients who used the VCU Health System between January 2003 and December 2009. The team will also conduct interviews and surveys of patients, physicians and program staff to understand what makes VCC effective.

The awards are part of the investments made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which included $1.1 billion to support patient-centered outcomes research.

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About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see