Douglas Conrad, Ph.D., M.B.A.

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November 19, 2010

Douglas Conrad, Ph.D., M.B.A., is professor of health services, dental public health services, and adjunct professor of finance and business economics at the University of Washington and former director of the Center for Health Management Research. He teaches graduate courses in risk and insurance, managerial finance, health economics, and health policy research. 

Dr. Conrad’s research interests include vertical integration in health services, integrated health systems, and the impact of financial incentives on physician behavior. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed and professional journals, including Health Services Research, Medical Care Research and Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, the American Journal of Managed Care, Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, and the Journal of Healthcare Management.  He currently serves on the editorial boards of Health Services Research and the Journal of Management and Marketing in Healthcare.

Dr. Conrad received his Ph.D. in business (doctoral fields in Economics and Finance) and a master’s in business administration from the University of Chicago. He earned a masters in Health Administration and a bachelors of science in psychology at the University of Washington. In 2009, Dr. Conrad was awarded the Filerman Prize for Innovation in Healthcare Management Education. The Prize recognizes individuals from the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) member programs who have made outstanding contributions to the field of healthcare management education, who have exhibited leadership in the field, and who have enriched their institutions, their students, and health care management education through their work. 

A long standing HCFO grantee, Dr. Conrad has been the principal investigator on five grants since 1995. Past HCFO studies have examined the effects of alternative compensation strategies on the clinical efficiency of individual primary care physicians in a managed care environment, the impact of financial incentives and risk-bearing arrangements on physician productivity, best practices with respect to compensation, the effect of the legal organization of medical groups on internal physician compensation incentives, and the impact of quality incentives on medical group performance. He also served as co-principal investigator (co-PI) of a HCFO-sponsored study (David Grembowski, PI) assessing the impact of an initiative comprising six patient-centered changes in Group Health Cooperative’s (GHC’s) delivery system. 

Dr. Conrad’s most recent HCFO grant examined the effect of quality scorecards and quality incentive payments in physician group practices. Dr. Conrad and colleagues assessed the joint effects of quality-based financial incentives and the quality scorecard on physician group practices’ clinical quality, patient satisfaction, and efficiency in caring for patients. The quality incentive—which initially was based on relative medical group performance and later tied to an absolute “achievable benchmark of care” for specific conditions—did not appear to result in differential quality improvement in the incented groups relative to the comparison groups (quasi-controls). These findings are consistent with previous studies—in that the modest size of the incentive payments, the use of a group-level rather than individual provider incentives, and the limitation of the program to one major private health plan may limit the effect. Future payment reform initiatives are evolving that build on these insights in the form of multi-payer programs with larger incentives based on individual, team, and medical group-level performance.