NIATx Research Scientist Andrew Quanbeck receives NIDA career development award

Submitted by: 05/12/2015 by Maureen Fitzgerald

It’s an oft-cited statistic: less than 15 percent of evidence-based practices are actually adopted in healthcare, and it takes 17 years on average for that to happen.  

“Those statistics really strike people every time you mention them,” says Dr. Andrew Quanbeck, a researcher at the UW-Madison Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies and NIATx. And with the receipt of a prestigious award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Quanbeck will spend the next five years studying those statistics and trying to find ways to improve them.  

“EBP implementation involves a series of decisions made by different groups of healthcare stakeholders,” says Quanbeck. “We haven’t really looked at how stakeholders’ potentially competing interests affect implementation.”

The K01 Mentored Research Scientist Award provides Quanbeck with five years of funding to cover part of his salary along with research and related expenses. As a career development mechanism, the K01 award provides protected time for early career researchers to develop the skills they need to compete successfully for research funding at the highest levels.

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from across the UW-Madison campus will mentor Quanbeck over the course of the research project. Dave Gustafson, Director of the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies, will serve as his primary mentor. Joining Gustafson are Dr. John Mullahy, Professor of Population Health Sciences and an internationally known authority on health economics (particularly in the area of drug abuse); Dr. Ramon Aldag, Professor of Management, former President of the Academy of Management, and an expert on behavioral decision-making; Dr. Oguzhan Alagoz, Associate Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering and an expert in medical decision making; Dr. Barbara Bowers, Professor of Nursing and an international authority on mixed-methods research; and Dr. Randall Brown, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and head of the University of Wisconsin’s Addiction Medicine Residency program.

The role of the mentoring team is essential in this award, says Quanbeck. “They’ll be sharing their years of accumulated wisdom and experience in helping me launch my own research career. I am excited and deeply grateful to have their support.”

Adds Gustafson, “I’m very excited to hear about Andy’s award and to be part of his mentoring team. He is an exemplary researcher, and I believe not only that he is well-deserving of the award but also that his research will benefit implementation science tremendously.”

This award marks a transition from Quanbeck’s previous research on quality improvement in health care to a more specific focus on implementation science.

Quanbeck earned an undergraduate degree in systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001 and worked in manufacturing engineering before joining the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies in 2005. “ I felt that systems engineers have a lot to offer in improving the healthcare system, and that’s where I wanted to put my skills to use,” says Quanbeck. He enrolled in health systems engineering doctoral program in 2007, receiving his Ph.D. in 2012. During that time he worked on several NIATx projects, including NIATx 200.

“One thing that has struck me is the amount of variability that you see in addiction treatment and in healthcare in general, and my dissertation used ideas from systems engineering to explain variation in the cost of addiction treatment between various organizations,” says Quanbeck.

NIATx 200 was focused on changing processes and quality improvement in addiction treatment organizations. Implementing evidence-based practices played a role in that project as well.

“With NIATx200 and other projects I started to understand that a lot of things have to go right for an EBP to be adopted,” says Quanbeck. “We haven’t really thought about all the things that have to happen at multiple levels,” he adds. “Policy makers have to believe in the EBP, organizational leaders have to see that it works, managers have to convince their staff that the EBP is something worth adding to their day-to-day work, and patients have to accept it.”

Quanbeck’s research will look various stakeholder perspectives toward EBP implementation.

“From each perspective, people are making decisions about whether or how to change the way they work,” says Quanbeck. “We tend to assume that people will adopt a research-based practice, but haven’t considered that they might have some very good reasons for not doing so. I don’t think the field has had a way of getting at those perspectives, which is what I am hoping to do through my research.”

Quanbeck’s project will begin with some training. He’ll be learning a technique called multi-attribute utility theory, an approach that has been used (for instance) to create quality of life measures that are widely used in patient level healthcare research. Quanbeck’s primary mentor Dave Gustafson has done pioneering work using this approach in healthcare throughout his career.

“I will be learning that approach and then will apply it to the assessment of the adoption potential of different EBPS from multiple stakeholder perspectives.”  

Over the long term, Quanbeck will make his research the centerpiece of an implementation strategy that would use NIATx tools and techniques.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me to learn from some of the leading thinkers at the UW-Madison and beyond. I couldn’t be more excited.” 

For more information, contact Andrew Quanbeck at

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