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Dr. Joshua Liao
Cherry blossoms on UW quad
December 2, 2020

Clinician Scholar Spotlight: Josh Liao

Dr. Joshua Liao (associate professor, GIM) is a board-certified internal medicine physician and the Medical Director of Payment Strategy at UW Medicine. He has a join appointment in Department of Health Services within the UW School of Public Health.
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Written by Dr. Joshua Liao


The goal of my work is to understand how systems of financing and delivering care work together with human behavior to impact health outcomes. To achieve that goal, I manage portfolios in two related areas: policy initiatives that reform healthcare payment and delivery, and provider initiatives that use principles from behavioral science to drive performance in those reforms.

This work ranges from large grant-funded research projects to education (audiences ranging from trainees to healthcare executives) and policy advisory roles (federal and state levels). In these areas, I maintain a focus on equity, prioritizing work that seeks to understand how policy reforms and related provider initiatives reduce or exacerbate health care disparities for vulnerable patients and populations.

These activities are housed in the Value & Systems Science Lab — a unit I lead that seeks to help people by improving the systems through which our country finances, organizes, delivers, and make decisions about healthcare. I created the Lab based on the notion that biomedical and clinical innovations are required but insufficient for improving care; patients must be able to sustainably access them through effective systems of payment and care delivery. A foundational principle in my work is that to truly be better, these systems must be more equitable, helping rather than hurting disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

UW Support

The University of Washington has enabled me to pursue this scholarship through mentorship and collaboration. I think that regardless of institution, the task of doing rigorous scholarship itself is hard enough: it requires major time investment (nights and weekends), tolerance of failure (the specter of failing never goes away), and an ability to discern and execute while balancing the new (what’s an innovative future state?) and practical (what will help stakeholders today?).

In my opinion, the best thing institutions can do is to provide mentorship and collaboration in ways that speed progress in each of these areas. UW has been that type of institution for me.

One major reason is the people. UW can be a massive community (I continue to meet people across the institution working in adjacent areas of interest) and an intimate one (I do much of work with a focused group of mentors and collaborators). I cherish that contrast, and the ideas, opportunities, and growth that it’s brought me.

More about Josh