Health policy research must adapt quickly to the changing dynamics of radiology — from a lingering pandemic to AI to an emphasis on diversity. The Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute® (NHPI) is uniquely positioned to meet those challenges, focusing on radiological policy research and with a strong history of evidence-based publications, data tools, and resources for researchers. The Bulletin talked with Elizabeth Y. Rula, PhD, who took over as executive director of NHPI in August (replacing Danny R. Hughes, PhD, who led the group for eight years) about her vision for the think tank, the importance of funding research, and why different perspectives matter.
What has been your primary focus to ensure the future value of the NHPI?
We want a collection of studies that clearly articulate the value of radiology that supports health policy congruent with the best patient care. By involving a lot of stakeholders upfront — talking to commission chairs in economics and research, quality and safety, and government relations leaders — we are ensuring a broad view of opportunities and concerns to inform our strategy. I am grateful to have our advisory board, through which we will share proposals and get valuable feedback.
What is at the heart of your strategic plan?
My goal is to have a framework of the critical topics we need to address. That means having a diverse research portfolio built from key issues and research questions that call for specific studies. I don’t want us to get narrowed into one specific area of research, but to move the needle on the most important topics in radiology with a policy and economics focus. You always need to build in some flexibility so that if something like COVID-19 pops up, we are able to pivot to support urgent study needs — still always aligned with the ACR’s goals.
Although the plan is not finalized yet, we have narrowed in on a number of exciting areas, including bolstering the value proposition for imaging, helping radiology practices navigate the evaluation and management reimbursement changes, modeling the value of different breast cancer screening modalities, understanding factors that drive hiring practices, and digging into health equity.
From a personal perspective, I have benefited from strong female mentors, and I appreciate that the ACR has many strong women in leadership positions.
How much emphasis will you put on diversity and inclusion moving forward?
I think a big way NHPI can promote diversity is through our mentorship offerings — partnering with institutions to provide training to radiologists from a variety of backgrounds who aspire to be researchers. From a personal perspective, I have benefited from strong female mentors, and I appreciate that the ACR has many strong women in leadership positions. I’m grateful to be part of that pack and will continue to be an advocate for diversity and a mentor for others.
How challenging is it to attract donors who have taken a financial hit during COVID-19?
The support of the ACR Foundation (ACRF) has been critical to ensuring we have adequate resources to maintain the current scope of research and respond to new policy issues. Due to COVID-19, the ACRF is not launching large fundraising campaigns, but every donation helps the NHPI more quickly achieve our goals and have a bigger impact on health policy. In the future, I look forward to sharing our strategy so that potential donors can clearly see what we can accomplish with their support. We are also expanding our advisory board to include a seat for a representative nominated by the ACRF. I see this as an opportunity to bring a new perspective to the table as we fine-tune our strategy.
What are some long-term goals to advance your vision?
We are pushing forward with all the projects already in the pipeline and building on relationships with our existing research partners, including the Health Economics and Analytics Lab (HEAL) at Georgia Institute of Technology, Feinstein Institutes at Northwell Health, and the Imaging Policy Analytics for Clinical Transformation (IMPACT) Center at Emory University. Longer-term, I plan to elevate the NHPI brand — growing our recognition broadly as a thought leader in health policy and radiology research. We’ve made great headway, but we are working now to identify more channels to communicate our research to enable radiologists, academic institutions, and policymakers to readily integrate our findings into their work and to ensure that our research informs key decisions in health policy and radiology practice.