Current funding for HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is not enough to ensure improvements to the nations health-delivery system, quality and safety advocates say.
AHRQ recently awarded more than $12 million to applied research projects targeting a range of process, quality and safety issues, including waste and inefficiencies, hospital-acquired infections, patient flow and overcrowding, and health literacy. The projects also include initiatives in information technology, such as implementing electronic prescribing across organizational settings. The awards are part of the agencys Accelerating Change and Transformation in Organizations and Networks, or ACTION, program, which hopes to bring innovations to healthcare at a faster pace.
That type of research is what the industry needs to see more of, said Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation. Federal funding for the advancement of medicine and science has led to better understanding of diseases; now providers need a better understanding of how to deliver that care, she said. We need some money to innovate on the process side.
The health delivery system requires an overhaul from its current acute-care, physician-centric model, Pinakiewicz said. AHRQ research up to this point has been helpful in identifying areas of quality and patient safety that need improvement. With more funding, the agency could lead the way in developing techniques for addressing whats wrong in those areas, she said.
In 2007, AHRQs funding was $319 million. For 2008 the agency had requested $330 million (a final HHS budget was never approved). Thats compared with other HHS agencies such as the Health Resources and Services Administration that conducts broader public-health research, which received $6.1 billion in the 2007 budget. It is unclear whether the funding will go up in the next year or so. While President-elect Barack Obamas healthcare plan does not specifically call for increased funding of quality research, the plan does spell out the need for reducing systemwide waste and implementing best practices.
AHRQ funding is a drop in the bucket compared with other agencies, including the CMS, National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Leah Binder, chief executive officer of the Leapfrog Group. While those other organizations provide important insights about biomedicine and community health, AHRQ has been integral in developing evidence-based practices, she said. We also need to understand what are the factors that go into top-quality care, like identifying the root cause of errors, Binder said. AHRQ is really funding the research that we need to make the case. Leapfrog supports increased federal funding for healthcare research.
Despite its budget, AHRQ has been increasing the amount of money going to projects through its ACTION program. In 2006 it awarded $4.5 million, which increased to $8.9 million in 2007.
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