In this era of medical information overload, finding the most effective treatment approach for your chronic illnesses or condition is no small task. Patients often are unsure which treatment or intervention works best for them. So are their doctors.
To address this gap in knowledge, Congress created AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program in 2003. It highlights the pros and cons of different treatment options for a given condition. This type of analysis is known as comparative effectiveness research; and findings are communicated to patients and doctors with concise guides, podcasts and audio programs.
In early 2009, researchers produced new reports on premixed insulin for adults with Type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes, have, on average, medical expenditures that are about 3.5 times higher than those without the disease, according to 2007 data from AHRQ. The Effective Health Care Program analysis compared the benefits (such as lowering fasting blood sugar and blood sugar after meals) and the side effects (very low blood sugar, weight gain) of the new premixed insulin against pills for diabetes, long-lasting insulin and regular insulin.
A Web conference on the report's findings led officials at 330-bed Kimball Medical Center, Lakewood, N.J., to develop an educational program for its clinical faculty. The program aims to reduce the incidence of adverse events and improve outcomes among its patients with diabetes.
There is, of course, no simple solution for putting the best and newest information into medical practice quickly. The U.S. healthcare system—and the patients it treats—is too complex, diverse and vast for that. Nonetheless, the imperative for hospitals to put findings that create value and improve outcomes into practice has never greater. As we join forces to transform our health system, let's also work to close the gap between what we know and what we do.
Allan J. Lazar is director of the Office of Communications and Knowledge Transfer at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md.
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