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|Kevin Frick |
Kevin Frick specializes in looking at the economic costs and benefits of both medical treatments and public health policy: Is acupuncture, for instance, a cost- effective way to treat knee pain? Do programs that screen for visual impairment in nursing home patients pay off?
“When you discuss preventive services in the American political scene, the question always is, how cost-effective are they?” says Donald Steinwachs, PhD, chair of Health Policy and Management. “The kinds of information that Kevin is developing are really crucial as a result.”
Says Frick, “There’s an art and a science in bringing this all together. You have to make sure the science is good, but you also want to think about what policymakers will look for.” In his study of nursing home patients, for instance, which he conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Wilmer Eye Institute, he wanted to determine whether regular screening for eye problems (and follow-up treatment) could significantly improve residents’ lives. So far, the study’s results suggest low costs and major benefits.
“You have to think about how to measure the effectiveness,” Frick explains. “One way might be, ‘Does it make patients easier to manage or medicate?’ Another measure would be to look at how the program affects their mobility and level of socialization.”
In this era of health care rationing, Frick’s expertise is in high demand. He notes, though, that he doesn’t ever want his analyses to become the sole basis for decisions.
“Just because something looks highly cost-effective doesn’t mean it’s going to pass other tests of equity or fairness and other social-justice issues across sub-populations,” Frick says.