Dr. Cara McDermott receives AcademyHealth new investigator award

She will study care coordination and low-value care among cancer patients at the end of life

Dr. Cara McDermott, an affiliate researcher with the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research, or HICOR, is among five U.S. researchers selected to be part of AcademyHealth’s 2017 New Investigator Small Grant Program.

She will use the funding to study care coordination and low-value care (care lacking sufficient evidence of benefit or not in line with patient goals) among patients with advanced cancer at the end of life.

close-up photo of McDermott as she speaks to two people
Dr. Cara McDermott Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

McDermott, a senior fellow at the Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said that cancer patients who are near death often receive low-value care. For example, hospitalization and emergency department visits for commonly occurring conditions among the dying — such as dehydration, pain management and constipation — are examples of potentially avoidable, low-value care that instead could be addressed in a home setting, thus avoiding hassle and expenses to patients and families during a difficult time.

In partnership with HICOR and local insurers, McDermott will study insurer-provided care coordination for enrollees in Washington state with advanced cancer and tease out patterns of health care use in the last month of life.

Findings from this study, McDermott said, will help determine how patients perceive and utilize care-coordination services in this setting and inform future interventions to improve care coordination and value-based care.

“We will learn how programs facilitating advanced care planning and care coordination impact how patients with life-limiting illnesses make choices about their health care,” she said. “In turn, an evaluation of such programs can help insurers determine if such programs are the most effective way to support their enrollees with serious illness.”

The AcademyHealth New Investigator program, which is designed to support the early careers of new health services researchers, is conducted in partnership with the Altarum Institute, the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and the March of Dimes.

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

Kristen Woodward, a former associate editor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, had been in communications at Fred Hutch for more than 20 years. Before that, she was a managing editor at the University of Michigan Health System and a reporter/editor at The Holland Sentinel, a daily in western Michigan. She has received many national awards for health and science writing. She received her B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University. 

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