Rachel Werner, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine

In her research, Rachel Werner, MD, PhD takes nothing for granted. Do quality measures actually measure quality? Do well-intentioned quality measures and incentives actually improve quality of care? And do providers and patients respond to systems such as public reporting and pay-for-performance in expected ways? Over the past 15 years, Dr. Werner has built a foundational research program examining the effects of health care policies on health care delivery, using methods designed to draw causal inference from observational data. She has investigated the unintended consequences of quality improvement incentives, and was among the first to recognize that public reporting of quality information may worsen racial disparities.

Her research has been published in high-impact peer-reviewed journals, including JAMA, Health Services Research, and Health Affairs. Beyond publication, Dr. Werner has influenced policy as a member of the National Quality Forum's  Expert Panel on Risk Adjustment and Socioeconomic Status and an advisor to the federal government on quality measurement and quality improvement incentives. In a particularly policy-relevant  study, she found that a 5-star rating system has a much greater effect on consumer choice of nursing home than more complicated measures of quality. She now serves on Pennsylvania's  Nursing Home Quality Improvement Task Force. She is a Core Investigator with the VA HSR&D Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), and also directs one of four national centers to evaluate the effectiveness of the VA's medical home.

Dr. Werner is a practicing general internist and a PhD-trained health economist. She divides her time between research on quality of care and her primary care practice at the Philadelphia VA and also co-directs Penn’s Master of Science in Health Policy Research. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the Dissertation Award and the Alice Hersh New Investigator Award from AcademyHealth, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and the American Federation of Medical Research (AFMR) Outstanding Investigator Award.

Dr. Werner is a Professor of Medicine, Director of Health Policy and Outcomes Research in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Medicine and Associate Chief for Research in the Division of General Internal Medicine. She is also a Professor of Health Care Management at Wharton. She received her undergraduate degree from Macalester College, and her medical degree and doctoral degree in health economics from the University of Pennsylvania.