NWHSU alum helps direction national health care institute

| December 14, 2018

In the ever-changing world of U.S. health care, Christine Goertz, a graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University is playing a major role helping patients and providers make the best treatment decisions.

In the ever-changing world of U.S. health care, a graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University is playing a major role helping patients and providers make the best treatment decisions.

‌Christine Goertz DC, PhD, who earned her Doctor of Chiropractic Degree from NWHSU in 1991, recently was appointed vice chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a nonprofit, non-government institute that finances research to help patients and health providers make the best decisions about care.

Goertz was an original appointee to the board of PCORI when it was founded as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to help improve patient care. This fall, the U.S. Comptroller General’s Office elevated her to vice chair, a position she will hold for three years.

The idea behind PCORI is to provide insight for patients and providers about "relative health outcomes, clinical effectiveness and appropriateness" of different health care treatments by evaluating existing studies and financing new ones, according to the institute. The agency has a research and administration budget of about $500 million annually, primarily financed with a $2 fee on each person in the United States covered by a group health plan.

The 21-member board has members from across the country representing: patients, physicians, nurses, hospitals, drug makers, device manufacturers, insurers, payers, government officials and health experts. The audience for information generated by the studies it reviews and finances are these same groups, including government regulators and elected officials.

“A large part of PCORI’s efforts are targeted towards funding investigators at academic institutions and other research organizations to conduct studies comparing two or more treatment options in order to evaluate which ones demonstrate the best clinical outcomes, are safest and preferred by patients,” Goertz said.

She adds: “PCORI takes the patient-centered aspect of our name very seriously. Patients are actively involved in planning our funded research studies and participate in our review process. We want to make sure that the questions we are trying to answer really matter to those most impacted. ”

Goertz was appointed to the board as a state-licensed integrative health-care practitioner, one of the designated professions that the federal government wanted represented on the board. She brings her focus as a chiropractor involved in multi-disciplinary and research-based care to PCORI. They are skills she says she first learned at NWHSU.

“I have been doing patient-centered comparative effectiveness research for about 25 years,” she says. “We didn’t call it that when I started, but you don’t have a lot of other options when you investigate therapies like chiropractic or acupuncture. It’s been exciting to have the opportunity to bring my research perspective to the board and also to support PCORI’s work to strengthen the methodologies used to conduct this kind of research.”

Goertz remains involved in research and recently was the primary author of two articles published in the new open-access Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA Network Open.

The first found that patients suffering from low-back pain who received chiropractic care in addition to usual medical care had better short-term improvements compared with those who received traditional medical care alone. (This article is available for free download here.)

The second article was an invited commentary by Goertz and a colleague urging health plans to offer more choice and greater access to non-drug treatment options. This commentary was written in response to a published study, which found that health plan policies on non-drug therapies for back pain often present significant barriers to such care. (This article is available for free download here.)

In addition to her Doctor of Chiropractic Degree, Goertz earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Biology from NWHSU and also completed an acupuncture certificate program.

“I think I took advantage of every degree or certificate opportunity that they had at that time,” she says.

A native of southwest Michigan, she came to the Twin Cities to study at the University of Minnesota but transferred to NWHSU after taking a chemistry class with a woman planning to pursue a chiropractic degree.

“She talked about it in ways that piqued my interest,” Goertz says. “I was attracted to the idea of being a doctor focused on the patient as a whole rather than just a disease or illness.” After a visit to NWHSU, she says, “I was really inspired by their mission to offer conservative, evidence-based treatments that help patients avoid drugs and surgery whenever possible.”

While earning her PhD, Goertz completed post-doctoral fellowships that exposed her to more research-driven decision making. She has worked at the American Chiropractic Association, the National Institutes of Health, a nonprofit health research institute focused on integrative health care for the military and Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, where she was vice chancellor of research and health policy.

Earlier this year, she left Palmer to devote more effort to a growing nonprofit she founded, the Spine Institute for Quality or Spine IQ.

Through all of her work, Goertz applies the same approach she learned at NWHSU.

“Currently I am invested in determining how we define and measure quality in health care delivery,” she says. PCORI, she says, “is making a significant investment towards building the evidence base we need to help patients make informed choices and also in disseminating research findings. It still takes about 17 years for information to trickle down from first publication in a journal article to common practice. That needs to change.”

More information about PCORI and Goertz’s role at the institute is available here.

 2018 Christine Goertz, alum of NWHSU.

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