With federal health research funding in decline, Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute Inc. wants to make up the difference by serving private health care customers.
The not-for-profit thinks a new partnership with consulting firm Deloitte should bring in more contracts from pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers, health insurers and hospital systems.
Regenstrief has joined a health care and life sciences analytics consortium run by Deloitte called ConvergeHEALTH. Because Deloitte talks to health care and life sciences companies every day, the relationship could bring in more contracts from those companies.
Deloitte also offers data visualization tools that could help Regenstrief and its clients sift through mountains of medical data faster to get to answers they need. Regenstrief maintains massive databases of patient medical records from hospitals and doctors around Indiana and then pays professors at the Indiana University School of Medicine to conduct research projects using those records.
“The quicker you can kind of drill down into the questions that are central to patients and providers and health care systems, the better,” said Mick Murray, a pharmacist who is executive director of the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Effectiveness Research. “It’s just like in the newspaper; you want to look at the picture and it helps you grasp what’s going on in the text a little bit better.”
Dr. Bill Tierney, Regenstrief’s CEO, expects about two-thirds of the work that comes through the Deloitte partnership to be from drug companies, with the rest split among medical device makers, insurers and health systems.
Such private-sector funding currently makes up about 10 percent to 15 percent of the $30 million in outside funding Regenstrief brings in each year. That percentage could rise to 25 percent to 30 percent if the Deloitte relationship is successful, Tierney said.
But he expects that work to mostly offset declining federal funding.
So far in fiscal year 2014, the National Institutes of Health has handed out $13.2 billion in awards to researchers around the country, which lags far behind the $22.5 billion it gave out in 2013. Congressional funding for the NIH has not kept pace with inflation over the past decade.
Tierney noted that Regenstrief's success rate has held steady in recent years—about 50 percent of its NIH funding requests are granted, compared with a national average of less than 10 percent.
But Tierney wants to avoid having the more than 50 primary researchers and numerous other scientists who work for Regenstrief sit idle. Since drug, device and insurance companies all want to know how various treatments play out among patients once they’re on the market—yet none of those entities have access to actual medical records of patients or the doctors treating the patients—Tierney thinks Regenstrief can help them get the information.
“I know that there is a lot of untapped need out there to be able to do the things we could do,” he said.