From the Director
Research Activities, April 2012
The President's 2013 budget proposal released in February directed $25.6 million to AHRQ's health information technology (IT) portfolio. Of that, nearly $19 million is for research grants using health IT to improve care quality. As Dr. White pointed out in the interview in this issue, well-designed health IT systems that are implemented using best practices can improve safety and quality.
Yet, there is currently little published evidence that attempts to quantify the risk of health IT implementation, according to the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contracted with the IOM to examine what is currently known about the effect of health IT on patient safety and to make recommendations on the role of AHRQ and other agencies and groups to ensure the safe implementation of health IT.
Improving the safety and quality of all aspects of care remains a core part of AHRQ's mission. Our health IT research projects continue to examine best practices for implementing health IT with the goal of improved quality of care. For example, we have developed a Workflow Assessment for Health IT Toolkit to help small- and medium-sized practices assess and redesign their workflows when transitioning from paper to electronic records. The goal is to prevent workarounds, inefficiencies, and safety problems. AHRQ's other health IT projects range from use of simulators for clinician training and telemedicine consults in inner city schools and rural locations, to novel approaches to improve medication management, e-prescribing, and electronic health records.
With these and many other projects, AHRQ continues to work to ensure that health IT fulfills its potential to save lives, improve care quality and safety, and reduce health care costs, as well as to make care more patient-centered and accessible.
Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.