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UI and Partners Earn Grant to Evaluate New Statewide Health Care Model

May 19, 2016

A team of researchers led by the University of Idaho is embarking on a three-year, $2.9 million project to evaluate an innovative model of health care being tested throughout Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare (IDHW) awarded the contract after a competitive process. Researchers from UI, the Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program and Boise State University will evaluate the model test of the Statewide Healthcare Innovation Plan, or SHIP, to allow IDHW to make adjustments.

The project is funded through a $40 million grant the state received in 2014 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to create and test a model health care system that focuses on outcomes rather than the volume of care provided. The SHIP system supports transformation of primary care through coordinated teams of providers focused on individual patients’ needs. In 2016, 55 medical practices in Idaho adopted the program, which will expand to 165 practices over the next two years and include regional and statewide oversight and support.

“Nationwide there is a lot of movement to look at the health care system, finding ways to improve health outcomes and control cost,” said Shenghan Xu, the evaluation team’s overall principal investigator and program director, and an associate professor of operations management in the UI College of Business and Economics. “Our evaluation plan is uniquely tailored to Idaho’s SHIP Model, focusing on continuous improvement.”

The team will use surveys, interviews and focus groups with patients, health care providers, insurers, IDHW personnel and other stakeholders to evaluate, analyze and find ways to improve SHIP as it grows.

“We welcome the University of Idaho as a partner in this important model test to transform Idaho’s healthcare delivery system,” said Cynthia York, program administrator for the SHIP initiative. “They have assembled an impressive team with extensive knowledge and experience in the design and implementation of large-scale rapid-cycle evaluations, performance metrics and advanced analytics. Their team provides national expertise in continuous improvement and formative evaluation methods which are critical pillars in the SHIP design.”

The evaluation team includes Xu; Jeff Seegmiller, director of Idaho WWAMI and an associate professor in the UI College of Education; SeAnne Safaii, an associate professor in the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Janet Reis, a research professor in the Boise State University College of Health Sciences; and Tim Dunnagan, dean of the BSU College of Health Sciences, as well as other UI and BSU researchers. The project will employ undergraduate and graduate student researchers and an administrator.

Xu, an expert in supply chains and operations, will examine SHIP as a supply chain with interacting processes and entities, including the patient, providers and insurers. She will look for ways to streamline the process, reduce waste and find cost savings while maintaining quality service to patients.

Seegmiller will leverage the medical expertise and community connections of Idaho WWAMI — which stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, the five states that partner with the University of Washington School of Medicine to deliver medical education in the region — to bring physicians’ perspectives to the project. He said the SHIP project meshes with WWAMI’s mission.

“We not only prepare our future physicians, but prepare for the future of health care in Idaho,” Seegmiller said.

Safaii, Reis, Dunnagan and the rest of the team will work to evaluate SHIP’s success in meeting its other goals, such as transitioning to the patient-focused model, creating virtual programs for people in rural areas, improving electronic health records and building a statewide data analytics system.

“The University of Idaho is excited to work with our colleagues at Boise State and state leaders to support this effort to provide quality medical care to the people of Idaho,” said UI President Chuck Staben. “We not only serve as Idaho’s medical school through WWAMI, but also bring expertise and resources that can strengthen the SHIP system and help the state find success with this endeavor.”

Media Contact:
Tara Roberts
University Communications

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at