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Nov. 8, 2012 Volume 34, No. 12

Mizzou receives $14.8 million grant for health care research

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GOOD NEWS IN TWOS Over the last few weeks, Curators Professor of Nursing Marilyn Rantz was inducted into the Institute of Medicine and co-received a multimillion-dollar research grant in senior health care. Nicholas Benner photo


Project is expected to save billions annually in senior health care costs

Marilyn Rantz has had an eventful few weeks.

She and five other MU nursing researchers secured a $14.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Sinclair School of Nursing announced Nov. 5. The grant is the largest research award in MU history. 

Three weeks earlier, Rantz, a Curators Professor of Nursing, was admitted to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the highest honors in health and medicine. 

“It feels pretty amazing,” Rantz said at the announcement. “It happened within two minutes of each other: I got the IOM email, and then I got the email on the grant. There were a few ‘Wahoos!’ that went up.”

According to CMS, nearly half of all hospitalizations among nursing home residents enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid could have been prevented. This would have resulted in health care savings of more than $7 billion in 2011. The four-year grant will fund the Missouri Quality Initiative for Nursing Homes, a project aimed at reducing avoidable re-hospitalizations among nursing home residents. 

“The success of this CMS project manifests the passion of Rantz and her team to develop a national model not only for care improvements, but also for huge cost savings for Medicare and Medicaid,” said Judith Fitzgerald Miller, nursing school dean. 

With grant support, MU will partner with CMS and state Medicaid programs at 16 nursing facilities in St. Louis. 

Funds will be used in part to place an advanced practice registered nurse at each location. The nurse will work with a traveling interdisciplinary team and home staff to coordinate patient care and improve the recognition, assessment and management of conditions that lead to hospitalizations.

For more than a decade, Rantz has advocated for placement of advanced practice nurses in nursing homes because they are trained to recognize the subtle changes in behavior and health among older adults. This allows interventions before conditions worsen, Rantz said. If pneumonia and other acute infections are caught early, for instance, the conditions might be treated at the nursing home rather than a hospital.

Rantz has spent 30 years working with seniors and conducting research in long-term care and chronic illness management. She views this grant as the culmination of her work and an opportunity to continue to put research into practice.

“If there was ever a time we could really advance the care for older people in America, it’s now,” Rantz said. 

“We’re going to take this grant and run with it.”

— Kelsey Allen