Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor David R. Zimmerman's passion is improving the quality of care delivered to nursing home residents around the world.
Under his leadership, UW-Madison researchers developed a set of indicators that assess nursing home care quality in 11 areas of care, including accidents, behavioral and emotional patterns, physical functioning, nutrition and eating, and quality of life, among others. Today, more than two million residents of all 17,000 U.S. nursing homes, plus residents of long-term care facilities in more than 15 countries, benefit from their use. “That quality measurement system has been instrumental in raising nursing home quality to new and higher levels — levels that few people thought possible only a few decades ago,” says a colleague.
Although activities related to nursing home quality of care comprise an essential part of Zimmerman's career — he is recognized internationally as a leading researcher and expert on nursing home quality assurance — they also consume much of his spare time. Through countless hours of interactions with long-term care consumers, providers, advocates and regulators, he works to bridge the gap between research and applied efforts to improve residents' lives. “Because of the trust these individuals and groups have placed in Zimmerman, he has been able to bring these groups together in support of new and improved ways of addressing nursing home quality problems,” says a colleague. “He has been able to serve as an honest and independent broker — a role that may have done more to advance the nursing home quality improvement agenda than any other single activity.”
Zimmerman regularly interacts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; as a result, the office has been able to constructively engage the nursing home industry in efforts to improve quality of care. He also frequently consults with large long-term-care provider networks to help them teach managers and staff to interpret quality data, develop care protocols to address identified concerns, monitor those plans, and improve the residents' quality of life.
He frequently interacts with federal policymakers, including the Senate Select Committee on Aging, the Senate Finance Committee, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Government Accountability Office, on long-term care issues. His research guides the policy; his experience has resulted in more rational regulation and advancements in industry quality-improvement initiatives.