Clancy, who recently announced she will be stepping down from her post in the months ahead, added that—to advance the national strategy of creating healthy communities—the healthcare industry will have to move beyond the use of health IT and the usual tools it has used in the past.
She explained that this includes recruiting outside the traditional healthcare silos and suggested that nontraditional partners such as hairdressers or the local department of motor vehicles can have roles in sending positive, health-promoting messages.
“I think it's going to be a huge frontier,” she said.
In discussing AHRQ's role, Clancy said, "We fund a lot of research and make a great deal of data available," adding that AHRQ's annual reports to Congress on healthcare quality and disparities will be released later this month.
In previewing the reports, Clancy said every year since 2003, the statistics have shown improvements in care, but in "slightly less good news," she added that the magnitude of the increases "is not stunning." She explained that a soon-to-released report shows improvement in nearly 60% of the measures used to track healthcare quality, but the median increase is only 2.5%. Information on how to accelerate those improvements is desperately needed, Clancy said.
Help could come from electronic health-record vendors making it easier for doctors who use their products to track quality, Clancy said. Doctors buy EHRs hoping that they can hit the F7 key and upload all the quality measures they need, but then are quickly disappointed, she added.
Quoting Dr. David Brailer, the first national coordinator for health IT, Clancy said health IT has to move the industry from hunting for relevant healthcare data to actively "farming" or growing it as a byproduct of the care being delivered. This involves the "capture of data from what we're doing," and she cited the use of patient registries as an example of how this can be done.
Clancy, whom Modern Healthcare and Modern Physician readers named the Most Influential Physician Executive of 2009, said the transformation of the nation's healthcare system is going to be exciting, exhilarating and depressing "sometimes all at once."
"That's the world we live in," Clancy said.