As the state’s Price Variation Commission continues its examination of the many factors that can lead to variation among hospital prices, one essential teaching hospital function must be considered: research. Although the benefits of research are obvious, there are costs associated with conducting research that often are not fully reimbursed in grants and lead to higher costs at the institutions where the research is conducted. The leading role of Massachusetts’ academic medical centers (AMC) in research should be part of the variation discussion.

Research conducted at Massachusetts’ hospitals fuels this region’s innovation economy, drawing in talent from around the world, creating thousands of jobs and attracting some of the world’s best known life science and biotech companies to the Boston-area. More importantly, today’s research makes the cures and treatments of tomorrow possible.

Three facts to consider when thinking about research at Massachusetts’ AMCs:

1. Massachusetts leads the nation in research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As the chart below illustrates, Massachusetts receives more NIH funding per capita than any other state:

The majority of these NIH funds go to our teaching hospitals. Of the top 10 US hospital recipients of NIH funding in FY 15, five of the first six were in Boston. In order of dollars received:

  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Brigham & Women’s Hospital
  • Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Dana Farber Cancer Institute
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital

2. Unlike other states, it’s our hospitals that bring in the most federal funds.

Both universities and teaching hospitals can be recipients of NIH funding. As you can see in the chart below, Massachusetts attracts more than $2 billion in federal research annually. But in most states it’s overwhelmingly the universities that attract the dollars. In Massachusetts it’s mostly the hospitals.

Also of note, in FY 15, Partners HealthCare (MGH, BWH, McLean, and Spaulding combined) led all other institutions in the country – university or hospital – with a total of $717 million in grants. Partners has been first in each of the last 5 years.

3. Researchers at Massachusetts’ hospitals are—by far—the most published in the most respected medical journals.

The publishers of the respected British journal Nature have built a database, by author and institution, of articles published each year in high-impact research journals. The top 20 hospitals in the United States are listed below. Last year, nine of the 20 were from Massachusetts – including the top five.

The quantity and quality of the research underway at hospitals in Massachusetts is informing and influencing research endeavors around the globe. And it’s fueling the economy and creating jobs right here at home. But it adds to the cost base for these institutions and should be taken into consideration when discussing price variation.

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Topics: Affordability, Academic Medical Centers, Scholarship

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