AHRQ offers facts and figures to support its ongoing work

With a big question mark hanging over its future, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) launched its 2015 Research Conference on Oct. 5.

The proposed 2016 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called for the termination of AHRQ funding but if that funding doesn’t come to an end, “2016 promises to be an exciting year for AHRQ,” said Director Richard Kronick, PhD.

The agency plans to continue and expand its efforts to improve patient safety, help people with multiple chronic conditions enhance the use of EHRs, require clinical decision support tools and provide treatment in rural communities.

AHRQ’s budget represents one 1/100th of a percent of national health expenditures, Kronick said. “That’s a minuscule investment in making the remaining 99.99 percent of healthcare safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable and affordable. The work AHRQ does is more needed than ever.”

Open data has been a top priority for President Obama’s second term, said Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, acting deputy secretary of HHS. Healthcare.gov opened in 2010 with 25 datasets and today it’s closing in on 2,000 datasets. “Better data sharing and new uses of data unlock exponentially more innovation and leads us to better understand our health challenges and illuminates the path forward to growth and change.”

It’s certainly hard work, Wakefield acknowledged. But, there are trends driving the use of data. Aside from better data, the Affordable Care Act has helped 17 million Americans gain coverage. Personalized medicine is taking off also. “For years medicine was constrained by a bit of a one-size-fits-all approach but we’re beginning to see personalized medicine like never before,” said Wakefield. “Precision medicine shows the future of what better care can look like.

“Better data, broader health coverage and cutting edge treatments are bringing us to a transformative moment in the healthcare system. It puts patients in the center of their care to keep them healthy.”

AHRQ is vital to these efforts, she said. AHRQ’s research and tools prevented 1.3 million medical errors, saved 50,000 lives and avoided an estimated $12 billion in unnecessary spending between 2010 and 2013.

AHRQ funded the development of a reengineered discharge toolkit. Research indicates that hospitals that use the tools have seen a 30 percent reduction in hospital readmissions.