R. Heather Palmer

R. Heather Palmer

Lecturer on Health Policy and Management

Department of Health Policy and Management

677 Huntington Avenue
Kresge Building Room 303
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617.432.4523



Dr. Palmer’s research focuses on evaluation and improvement of quality of health care, particularly in the ambulatory setting. She specializes in the development and evaluation of clinical performance measures and improvement programs and serves on several national advisory boards in this capacity. Dr. Palmer and her colleagues are currently engaged in the following research projects:

MAJIC: Making Advances in Avoiding Jaundice in Infant Care
We have long known how to diagnose jaundice in babies, and treating it at an early stage is simple, non-invasive and inexpensive. When jaundice is not treated promptly, a condition called kernicterus may develop, with potentially devastating results including blindness and cerebral palsy. Kernicterus had been virtually eradicated in this country, but has begun to reappear. This may be related to the earlier discharge of newborns, because the symptoms of jaundice take 3-5 days after birth to fully develop. By that time, most babies today are outside a medical setting and family caregivers can easily miss the symptoms. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funded this five-year project to identify and share ways in which managed care plans can detect and treat jaundice in newborn babies.

Dr. Palmer’s research partners include:

A paper from the MAJIC project (cited below) presents a benchmarking model for measuring performance in management of hyperbilirubinemia:

Shu-Chiung Chou, Palmer, R. Heather, Ezhuthachan, Sudhakar, Newman, Christine, Pradell-Boyd, Brenna, Maisels, Jeffrey M., Testa, Marcia A. Management of hyperbilirubinemia in newborns: measuring performance using a benchmarking model. Pediatrics 2003;112:1264-1273

Click Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia Management Benchmarking Calculator to view the calculator, enter your data and compare your performance in preventing severe hyperbilirubinemia against the performance of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI.

Another recent publication from this Project can be found at:

Palmer, R. Heather, Clanton, Mark, Ezhuthachan, Sudhakar, Newman, Christine, Maisels, Jeffrey, Plsek, Paul, Salem-Schatz, Susanne. Applying the “Ten Simple Rules” of the Institute of Medicine to management of hyperbilirubinemia in newborns. Pediatrics 2003;112:1388-1393

NQMC: National Quality Measures Clearinghouse
Dr. Palmer leads the Harvard team that is providing expert input to ECRI, the prime contractor for the development and operation of The National Quality Measures Clearinghouse™ (NQMC™). NQMC, which is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a database and Web site for information on specific evidence-based health care quality measures and measure sets. NQMC is sponsored by AHRQ to promote widespread access to quality measures by the health care community and other interested individuals.

The NQMC mission is to provide practitioners, health care providers, health plans, integrated delivery systems, purchasers and others an accessible mechanism for obtaining detailed information on quality measures, and to further their dissemination, implementation, and use in order to inform health care decisions. NQMC builds on AHRQ’s previous initiatives in quality measurement, including the Computerized Needs-Oriented Quality Measurement Evaluation System (CONQUEST)on which Dr. Palmer and her colleagues also worked, the Expansion of Quality of Care Measures (Q-SPAN) project, the Quality Measurement Network (QMNet) project, and the Performance Measures Inventory (PMI). Key components of NQMC include:

Structured, standardized abstracts (summaries) containing information about measures and their development;

A utility for comparing attributes of two or more quality measures in a side-by-side comparison; and

Links to full-text quality measures (when available) and/or ordering details for the full measure.

Current Professional Service

Co-chair of the Work Group on Implementation of the Physician Consortium for Performance and Improvement

Member of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations Advisory Council on Performance Measurement


M.B. B.Ch. (British equivalent of M.D.), 1964, Cambridge University
S.M., Harvard School of Public Health