Another Funder on a Quest to Make Healthcare Work Better

Health and medical research is an endlessly complicated business, but much of it can be broken down into two categories. One is the scientific search for cures and better treatments. And the other is the policy and management sidethe search for better ways to apply what's already known and practiced, by making healthcare more affordable, reaching people who fall through the cracks, and identifying and adhering to best practices.

Such public health oriented questions are the focus on a newly announced research RFP (a little more on that later) from a funder we haven't covered before: the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. NIHCM, which describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, has been around since 1993, when it was incorporated by a group of health plan CEOs, led by founding President and CEO Nancy Chockley, who still holds the job. In 1998 NIHCM reorganized, creating the public foundation.

Given its roots in health insurance, NIHCM's interest in issues like healthcare reform, coverage, Medicare and related matters is not surprising. Some recently supported projects have included studies and reports on prescription opioid abuse, high-risk care management through machine learning, and overuse of services for patients with advanced cancer.

NIHCM's annual research grant program provides $250,000 to be divided among four or five projects. Its journalism grant program spreads $250,000 across six to eight projects. Those seem to have been the levels for the last few years.

As for the RFP, NIHCM says it's looking for investigations focusing on healthcare financing, delivery, management and policy, with potential to reveal ways to reduce spending, improve quality, or expand access to coverage and services.

Slightly more surprising is the other side of NIHCM funding: it also provides grants for healthcare journalism, supporting health reporting, education for journalists, and film and public engagement. It has supported investigative reporting, webinar series, documentaries, podcasts, and more by well-known groups like the USC Annenberg School for Communication, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Washington Monthly, Frontline, and ProPublica, among others.

The foundation also offers a few prizes for excellence in health journalism—it recently named this year's recipients. Funding for health journalism is definitely on point: the decimation of the journalism industry during the last couple of decades has left a vacuum of high quality writing and coverage that's been too often overshadowed by an endless tsunami of less-than-rigorous reporting on snake oils and health fads.