March 13, 2007

NCQA honors Dr. Ed Wagner for improving chronic illness care nationally

Seattle—Dr. Ed Wagner, director of the MacColl Institute for Health Care Innovation at Group Health Cooperative, is among four winners of the 2007 Health Quality Awards from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). The awards, presented every two years, honor individuals and organizations whose energy, efforts, and vision have substantially helped improve U.S. health care quality. 

The other three winners are Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and the "Let's Just Play Go Healthy Challenge," a television program sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Winners in 2005 included Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Newt Gingrich, and actress Mary Tyler Moore, chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The awards will be presented at a dinner in Washington, D.C., on March 15. NBC News' Chief Science and Health Correspondent Robert Bazell will moderate.

Wagner, who was the founding director of the Group Health Center for Health Studies, is best known for his leading role in developing and disseminating the Chronic Care Model through a national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The Model is an evidence-based framework that describes what a health system must provide to help patients with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression to get the kind of care they need, when they need it. It is estimated that more than 100 million Americans now live with one more chronic conditions, and that number will rise as the population ages.

"Dr. Wagner deserves particular praise for taking theoretical ideas about caring for the chronically ill and turning them into actionable concepts," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "For example, NCQA borrowed heavily from his work when we developed the criteria for our ‘Physician Practice Connections' program, which awards practices that use up-to-date information systems to enhance patient care."

Wagner also serves as principal investigator for the Cancer Research Network, a National Cancer Institute–funded consortium of 11 health-plan-based research organizations. Among his many local and national committee involvements, he served as co-chair of the task force that led to the creation of the Puget Sound Health Alliance, a regional multi-stakeholder collaboration committed to improving quality and reducing costs.

Since 1998, the MacColl Institute has served as the national office for RWJF's "Improving Chronic Illness Care" national program. Under Wagner's leadership, the program has supported broad dissemination and testing of the Chronic Care Model, especially among safety net provider organizations, such as federally funded community health centers, public hospital systems, and the Indian Health Services.

The Model describes an integrated set of changes to health care organizations, and individual doctors' practices that help them provide better care and encourage patients and their families to play a central role in the management of their health. Organizations worldwide have embraced and adapted the Model, finding that it often results in healthier populations and holds promise for reducing health care costs.

"Ed Wagner's work is helping to prevent and alleviate suffering among people with chronic health conditions throughout the United States," said Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, executive director of Group Health Center for Health Studies. "As a result of Ed's leadership and focus on collaboration, the American health care system now has an effective model to address problems in chronic illness care."

Those using the Model in their chronic care programs include the Centers for Medicaare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the World Health Organization, several state Medicaid programs, and accreditation programs run by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and The Joint Commission. Internationally, several national health care systems and Canadian provinces are using the Model to redesign care.

The MacColl Institute's current agenda is focused on two areas: easing implementation of the Chronic Care Model for smaller practice organizations with fewer resources, and fostering regional quality improvement coalitions.

Wagner received his medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he also completed his residency in Internal Medicine. He joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina (UNC) from which he received a Master of Public Health degree. After 12 years at UNC, he moved to Seattle as the founding Director of the Center for Health Studies, Group Health's public-domain research organization, which houses the MacColl Institute.

Wagner is also well known for his research showing how community-based senior programs linked to primary care can prevent disability. He has written two books and more than 250 publications. He serves on the editorial boards of Health Services Research, the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, and the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. It develops health care evaluation tools including health plan accreditation and HEDIS®, the most widely used set of health care performance measures.

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