Meredith B. Rosenthal, Ph.D.

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February 18, 2011

Meredith B. Rosenthal, Ph.D. is an associate professor of health economics and policy and the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Rosenthal received her Bachelor of Arts in international relations from Brown University and her Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University. Her research examines the design and impact of market-based health policy reforms, including the use of provider financial incentives and mechanisms to alter consumer behavior and the competitive environment for health care providers. Additionally, her main research interests include value-based purchasing, pay-for-performance, consumerism and consumer-directed heatlh plans, and economics of the pharmaceutical industry. 

Dr. Rosenthal has served as the principal investigator on two previous HCFO studies. The first study examined how public “report cards” on consumer and physician behavior were disseminated. The objective of the project was to fill an information gap concerning the value of publicly reported quality information and to provide guidance to public and private decision makers on the measurement and dissemination of provider quality information. The findings of this study supported the theory that public reporting can be an effective tool for increasing the market share of high performing providers and for improving the average quality of care in the population. This study was one of the first to document any meaningful change in consumer behavior from a provider quality report card. 

In her second HCFO project, Dr. Rosenthal examined how to help employers and health plans better tailor their outreach programs, evaluate whether to offer incentives, and better understand the impact that Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs) have on enrollee behavior. The aims of this research were to: 1) examine the overall rates of HRA completion in a privately-insured population; 2) examine the impact of a consumer financial incentive on HRA completion; 3) examine the characteristics of consumers who opt to complete an HRA; and 4) look for early effects of HRAs on utilization and health behavior. HRAs, structured surveys that ascertain information about health status, behavior, and health history, have been promoted as the entry point for many behavioral interventions and an element of consumer engagement. The study found that there were discernable patterns of self-selection among HRA-takers. In particular, women, enrollees of consumer-directed health plans and PPOs, and healthier people are more likely to complete an HRA. Individuals who completed an HRA were less likely, however, to have received recommended preventive or chronic care in the previous year, despite equal numbers of applicable care recommendations. The results suggested that HRAs can influence behavior among enrollees of employer-sponsored insurance plans, despite the fact that healthier individuals are more likely to complete them.

Currently, Dr. Rosenthal is the principal investigator on a HCFO research project examining the effects of tiered physician networks introduced in six health plans offered to beneficiaries of the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Specifically, they will (1) determine whether tier status of a regular physician is associated with choice of plan; (2) determine whether tier status affects the probability that a patient will visit a physician for the first time; (3) determine whether tier status affects the probability that a patient will continue seeking care with a physician seen prior to tiering; and (4) identify patient, plan, and physician characteristics associated with greater responsiveness on aims 1-3. The objective of this project is to assist employers in assessing the impact of physician tiering on consumer behavior and to assess the value of this benefit design feature. 

More information about her research can be found at: