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Ruth Thorlby

2008-09 Harkness Fellow Harkness/Health Foundation Fellow Fellow in Health Policy The King's Fund

Harkness Project Title: How are Health Care Organizations Using Patients’ Race and Ethnicity Data to Improve the Quality of Care?

Mentors: John Z. Ayanian, M.D.; Bruce Siegel, M.D.

Placement: Harvard Medical School

Biography at time of Harkness Fellowship: Ruth Thorlby, a 2008–09 Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice, is a fellow in health policy at the King's Fund, where she was previously a research officer. In this role, Thorlby heads the Briefings Unit, which produces analyses and commentary for policymakers and the media. Thorlby also has ten years of experience as a journalist, including positions as assistant producer for BBC Television's "Panorama," and senior broadcast journalist for BBC World Service Radio. She is the lead author of 14 King's Fund reports, and has been published in journals such as the British Medical Journal, Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, and Health Services Journal. Thorlby holds a master's degree in social policy and planning from the London School of Economics, where her dissertation, "From Patient to Consumer: Will more patient choice in the NHS mean better health care?" won the Titmuss Examination Prize.


Project: Ruth Thorlby delivered an assessment of how racial and ethnic data are being collected and used in the design of interventions to improve quality and reduce disparities. In her two-phase project, Thorlby first created an overview of how many and what type of organizations routinely collect and analyze racial/ethnic data on their patients, and summarized the different ways the data is being used to improve quality. In the second phase, she examined a shortlist of organizations in greater depth, using them as case studies to investigate the impact of collecting and using race and ethnicity data on the quality of services and on the work of physicians and other frontline staff.

Career Activity since Fellowship:

  • Assistant Director of Policy, The Health Foundation
  • Deputy Director of Policy, The Nuffield Trust
  • Senior Fellow, The Nuffield Trust, 2010

Current Position: (updated 7/2017)

  • Assistant Director of Policy, The Health Foundation

E-mail: [email protected]

Selected Publications:


Thorlby R. On the NHS mandate. Will liberation come from the mandate? Health Serv J. 2012 Nov 22;122(6330):18-9.

Thorlby R, Jorgensen S, Siegel B, Ayanian JZ. “How health care organizations are using data on patients' race and ethnicity to improve quality of care.” Milbank Quarterly. 2011.

Lewis RQ, Thorlby R. Liberalizing the health care market: the new government's ambition for the English National Health Service. Int J Health Serv. 2011;41(3):565-74. Jun;89(2):226-55.

Thorlby R, Jorgensen S, Ayanian JZ, Sequist TD. “Clinicians' views of an intervention to reduce racial disparities in diabetes outcomes.” J Natl Med Assoc. 2011 Sep-Oct;103(9-10):968-77. Jorgensen S, Thorlby R, Weinick RM, Ayanian JZ. “Responses of Massachusetts hospitals to a state mandate to collect race, ethnicity and language data from patients: a qualitative study.” BMC Health Serv Res. 2010 Dec 31;10:352.

Thorlby R. “Ruth Thorlby on the price of healthcare in the US.” Health Service Journal. Online article. 27 October 2008.