Purchasing Pathfinders

May 1999

Under its Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization initiative (HCFO), The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported several projects that have examined the activities of public and private purchasing innovators and sought to assess their impact and potential. In addition, the Foundation has sought to encourage substantive exchanges among researchers, purchasers, providers, and policymakers in order to deepen understanding of several issues, including identifying the essential components of successful purchasing innovations, recognizing the obstacles to designing and implementing new approaches, and anticipating the challenges that must be overcome for additional purchasers to try the new strategies. One such exchange took place at a HCFO meeting held in July 1997, where a purchaser, a consumer representative, and researchers were among the presenters, and many public and private policymakers were among the participants. The resulting discussion proved valuable for helping researchers understand how their work was being used in a practical and policy sense and for helping policy leaders understand better what is happening in the “real world” of purchasing. The meeting also provided an opportunity to assure purchasers that they have a hearing among those who study and regulate them. This report seeks to promote further interaction among all the players by providing an overview and synthesis of the initiatives implemented thus far by a significant number of the innovators in the purchasing arena.