Aetna Foundation Leads Coalition of Funders to Launch Study of Health Care Quality in Connecticut

First-of-Its-Kind Survey Will Focus on Patient Views of Their Health, Doctors and Access to Care

11/08/11

Dateline:

HARTFORD, Conn.
"By surveying patients here in Connecticut, we can develop a strong repository of data to guide nonprofits, public agencies and practitioners in their efforts to improve the quality of health care in our state."

How good is health care in Connecticut? Do residents have ready access to high-quality care? How does insurance -- public plans, private plans or no coverage at all -- impact the quality of care Connecticut residents receive?

Questions like these will be addressed in an upcoming survey of Connecticut residents developed by an unusual collaboration of five state-based foundations focused on health issues: the Aetna Foundation; the Connecticut Health Foundation; the Donaghue Foundation; the Foundation for Community Health; and the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.

The research, modeled on similar national surveys, will be the first of its kind in Connecticut to examine patient views of health care at the state and county levels. Results are expected in early 2013 in a report entitled, "The State of Health for the State of Connecticut."

"Patient experiences offer a unique perspective on health and the performance of the health care system, especially for people of color, low-income families and other underserved populations," said Gillian Barclay, D.D.S., Dr.P.H., vice president of the Aetna Foundation, which spearheaded the project. "By surveying patients here in Connecticut, we can develop a strong repository of data to guide nonprofits, public agencies and practitioners in their efforts to improve the quality of health care in our state."

"Additionally, since the survey's design will echo a number of well-respected national studies, such as the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, we will be able to see if the quality of care in Connecticut is better, worse or the same as the rest of the nation," said Barclay.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School's Center for Health Policy and Research has been tapped to conduct the $379,000 study. Researchers will carry out a randomized telephone survey of 4,000 Connecticut adults over a 12-week period in the spring of 2012. The sampling will reflect Connecticut's population demographics and cover the state's eight counties. Interviews will be conducted in English and Spanish.

Much of the survey will focus on patients' experiences with primary care and explore whether patients have a regular doctor, how easily they can make appointments and how well their care is coordinated with specialists or other providers. Other questions will examine the patient-doctor relationship and how well patients' questions are answered and whether patients' needs and preferences are respected.

The survey also will explore whether patients receive timely preventative care services, such as PAP smears and blood pressure screenings, and patients' perceptions of the care they receive. Additionally, a series of demographic questions will help identify racial and ethnic disparities in care and health outcomes and the impact of education, income and insurance coverage on the quality of care the patients receive.

Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, emphasized the timeliness of gathering reliable state and local data over the coming months.

"With most of the provisions legislated by the Affordable Care Act scheduled to be enacted in 2014, we need to benchmark the current state of health care in Connecticut and have available critical data that can help us pinpoint health gaps and find solutions," said Baker. "Results from the survey also will be used to develop policy briefs that will be disseminated to policy makers and other decision makers in the state."

Lynne Garner, president of the Donaghue Foundation, said, "The survey information also will be used to create a database that community groups and researchers can use to further explore issues of community, health care and health."

Nancy Heaton, executive director of the Foundation for Community Health, said, "Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, with fine hospitals and medical schools and one of the highest percentages of insured residents. Yet we do not have a clear understanding about the quality of health care in our state. Our study holds the promise of providing vital health care data to drive improvements where they are needed most."

Juan A. Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said, "This collaboration will provide elected leaders and decision makers in our state with the hard data they need to move the needle of improving health care in the right direction. It shows what we can accomplish when we work together toward a common goal. We are proud to partner with other major state health foundations to support this important work in health reform."

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $394 million in grants and sponsorships, including $15.6 million in 2010. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.3 million hours since 2003. Our current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care.

About the Connecticut Health Foundation

The Connecticut Health Foundation is the state's largest independent, philanthropic organization dedicated to improving lives by changing health systems. Since it was established in July 1999, the foundation has supported innovative grant-making, public health policy research, technical assistance and convening to achieve its mission – to improve the health of the people of Connecticut.

Since 1999, CT Health has awarded grants totaling $44.7 million throughout the state in the following priority areas:

    * Improving access to children's mental health services
    * Reducing racial and ethnic health disparities
    * Expanding access to and use of children's oral health services
    * Supporting advocacy and public policy research to create enduring state-wide change

About the Donaghue Foundation

The Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation provides grants for medical research of practical benefit. It focuses on initiatives to strengthen research on health issues, to promote research leadership, and to put new knowledge to work for public benefit. The Donaghue Foundation was established in 1991 by the will of Ethel Donaghue in memory of her parents.

About the Foundation for Community Health

The Foundation for Community Health is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the residents of the greater Harlem Valley in New York and the northwest corner of Connecticut. While increasing access to quality health-related services in this very rural area is its top priority, the foundation has focused on the locally identified "critical needs" to improve access to mental health and oral health services, especially for those most vulnerable. Since 2003 the Foundation has distributed over $4 million dollars. In addition to grant making, the foundation brings people together to solve problems, conducts research, provides technical assistance, supports collaborations, and advocates for policy change.

About the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut

The Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut is an independent, not-for-profit activist philanthropy whose mission is to serve as a catalyst that engages residents and communities in shaping a health system that provides universal access to quality health care and promotes health in Connecticut. UHCF believes that health care is a fundamental right and sees its work as part of a broader movement for social and economic justice. It supports public policy advocacy and community organizing, research and communications. The Foundation, with its broad-based coalition partners in the statewide grassroots healthcare4every1 effort – including members from the business, health care provider, labor, clergy, consumer advocacy and philanthropic communities – played a significant role in the successful passage of landmark planning laws for state health reform in 2009 and 2011.

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest-growing academic health sciences centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research. The Medical School attracts more than $255 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The mission of the Medical School is to advance the health and well-being of the people of Massachusetts and the world, through pioneering education, research, public service and health care delivery. The Center for Health Policy and Research, part of the Medical School's Commonwealth Medicine health care consulting division, builds on the methodological expertise available from the school's academic departments and applied research centers and provides expertise in all phases of survey research, including survey planning, survey design, sample selection, data collection, data processing, data analysis and reporting.


Contact:

Media:
The Connecticut Health Foundation
Maryland Grier
maryland@cthealth.org
860-724-1580, ext 21
860-888-6616, cell
The Donaghue Foundation
Stacy Cloud
cloud@donaghue.org
860-521-9011
The Foundation for Community Health
Nancy L. Heaton
nancy@fchealth.org
860-364-5157
The Universal Health Care Foundation
Alice Straight
astraight@universalhealthct.org
203-639-0550, ext. 309
203-443-3415, cell
The University of Massachusetts Medical School
Mark Shelton
mark.shelton@umassmed.edu
508-856-2000

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