Research Activities, February 2014
From the Director
In last month's Research Activities cover story, I had the chance to share my thoughts about the Agency's mission and priorities going forward. Your many comments reflect the interest and passion so many have not only for the field of health services research, but for AHRQ as well. As I indicated, making health care safer will remain one of the Agency's key priorities.
Too many patients continue to be harmed in the course of receiving treatment. For example, an estimated 1 in 7 hospital patients experience preventable harm during their care. AHRQ's patient safety research focuses on the ways that patients are harmed—and not just in hospitals or acute care settings—why the harm occurs, and how to prevent it. An example of that research is described in the study on this issue's cover.
AHRQ public health specialist, Noel Eldridge, M.S., and Yun Wang, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, used Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System data to examine adverse events among patients hospitalized for four common conditions. The good news is they found a significant decline in adverse events for heart attack and heart failure patients, although not for patients being treated for pneumonia and those recovering from surgery.
These findings underscore the need for improvement in safety areas that AHRQ continues to tackle and improve. AHRQ continues to work in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other partners to develop tools and resources for providers and others to use in making health care safer. For instance, the Agency has spearheaded many initiatives in the area of reducing healthcare-associated infections.
AHRQ's hospital safety initiatives range from recommending 10 safety practices that hospitals and other health care facilities should adopt now based on its safety evidence report, and a hospital culture survey that can help hospitals assess and improve their safety culture, to numerous clinical tools and checklists to help hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities reduce adverse events such as falls, pressure ulcers, and healthcare-associated infections. AHRQ is making headway to improve safety in many of these and other areas.
I encourage you to follow developments underway both at AHRQ and HHS, and through initiatives such as the Partnership for Patients, and to watch this column for information you can use to improve care, policy, and research.
Richard Kronick, Ph.D.