Q+A with Thomas Schober

Thomas joined NZWRI in November 2021 as a Senior Research Fellow. Much of his work is in the area of health economics, although he also does work on issues in education and labour markets. Thomas specialises in working with large administrative data and applying quantitative methods.

When asking Thomas to fill in the blanks: "Economics is ___, ___ and ___", he said:

"Economics is supply, demand and rock 'n' roll."

1. When and why did you decide that you wanted a career in economics?

I studied social economics at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, kind of a mixture between economics, sociology, and political science. I found the topics in economics and the people who taught the courses most exciting, so I did my thesis there and started to work as a research assistant. After realising that I really enjoy doing research, I thought I could try doing a PhD in economics and stayed in academia since then.

2.  Describe one of your ongoing research projects.

We assess the quality of care in hospitals using administrative data from Austria. In the city we are studying, hospitals have agreed on a rotating schedule where on each day a different hospital is primarily responsible for inpatient admissions. For patients in need of acute care, this creates a quasi-random allocation to hospitals. We exploit this natural experiment to analyse hospital performance by comparing patient outcomes such as mortality and readmission. We then contrast our results with traditional performance indicators that are used in many health care systems around the world.

3. Could you describe the key results?

First results suggest substantial differences between commonly used indicators and our estimates using the experimental approach. This indicates that traditional risk-adjustment methods cannot fully account for differences in patients across hospitals, and that quality indicators should be interpreted with caution.

4. What makes this research impactful?

Hospitals are a key health care provider in every health care system, and there is an increasing interest to measure and compare the quality of care. However, it is difficult to objectively measure quality. With our project we want to contribute to this discussion and help improving the quality of health care.

5.  What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy sports and already have done a couple of hiking trips around Auckland to explore this beautiful country. I also brought a guitar from Austria that I play regularly.