By Sarah Svetec
This summer I am working in the role of a research/data analyst, which might not be the first thing you would think a pre-medicine student would pursue as a summer internship. My summer internship, sponsored by the Whitehead Internship Program, is at the Health Care Improvement Foundation. I sought out this opportunity because I wanted to broaden my perspective on health care in order to contribute to my efforts to hopefully become a well-rounded physician one day. The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is a non-profit organization in Philadelphia that works to facilitate the collaboration of major health care stakeholders in order to improve the quality, transparency, consistency and affordability of health care. HCIF has two main branches, one focusing on population health and the other on clinical improvement.
At HCIF I do most of my work with a Haverford alum, Bret Marlowe, who works with everything data-related on three main projects. I assist Bret as well as other team members with project design, data analysis, report writing, website development and event organization for these projects. The three projects I work on include the Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance, which is an initiative of HCIF that brings together hospitals, physicians, and health plans to improve quality of care and publicly report health care performance, CPR Ready, a Philadelphia area campaign to increase bystander CPR and cardiac arrest survival rates, and finally, the Pennsylvania Urologic Regional Collaborative, a quality improvement initiative that brings urology practices together in a physician-led, data-sharing collaborative aimed at advancing the quality of diagnosis and care for men with prostate cancer.
One of my favorite assignments this summer has been a report that I prepared for a Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance working group. The report reviewed data that was recently released by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council on cancer surgery volume at all Pennsylvania hospitals in 2017. The report was prompted by a California report in 2015 that shared similar data and provided a literature review that explained the positive association between hospital surgery volume and surgery outcome for eleven different cancer types through measures such as mortality, complication rates, and length of stay. The logical basis of this is that the more practice surgeons in a hospital have with a certain surgery, the better they are able to perform the given surgery. For this report I analyzed the prevalence of cancer surgeries being performed at low volume hospitals in Pennsylvania and also began to tackle the question of where this phenomena is happening as a first step to possibly explain why it is happening. I found this topic very interesting as the issue is far more complicated than just a single number and has led to many stimulating conversations with both health care professionals and physicians. Overall, knowledge like this, about the countless connections between medicine and public or population health, have been the most valuable aspect of my summer internship at the Health Care Improvement Foundation. I am writing this blog with two weeks remaining of my internship and the first eight weeks have flown by. I feel that I have gained many useful skills from this opportunity including data analysis and reporting skills as well as learned a great deal about clinical improvement and quality measures in medicine.