RCTs for Health Care Delivery Improvement

A recent NY Times article highlights the use of randomized control trials (RCTs) as an important tool in identifying methods for improving  health care delivery. The article notes that the current use of RCTs for this is rare, but identifies researchers that are currently utilizing this method and obtaining results that have lead to cost and life-saving outcomes.

The article focuses on Amy Finkelstein’s work on the The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment and her goal to increase the number of RCTs performed to improve healthcare delivery. An important (and perhaps not so surprising) finding from the Oregon RCT: “[It] shows the dangers of policy making by gut instinct.”

Finkelstein is working with Jeff Brenner, a physician in Camden, NJ to test his innovative model of care, which focuses on frequent healthcare service utilizers. While this model has received extensive praise, Brenner stresses the importance of performing an RCT in order to scientifically evaluate its effectiveness. He’s quoted as stating “We have these one-off stories of the miracle cure, and now we have to test it…the only way to know if our intervention is truly effective is to do a randomized trial.”