The Origins of AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW: Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care
Origins of EvidenceNOW
The ability to integrate and implement new discoveries into patient care creates a stronger, more effective health care system. But not all discoveries are equal. We turn to evidence to understand what works and how best to integrate effective approaches and treatments into patient care.
That’s why AHRQ launched EvidenceNOW: because changing medical practice is difficult, and people delivering care need proven methods to apply solid evidence to their patients’ situations. Practices also need to know how to collect and analyze their own data to make sure they’re delivering the best care possible. The goal of EvidenceNOW is to strengthen our Nation’s primary care system and its ability to adapt, thrive, and improve patient care in an environment of discovery and change.
Building Primary Care Capacity
AHRQ recognizes that primary care forms the foundation for high-quality, accessible, efficient health care for all Americans. AHRQ’s primary care programs and initiatives focus on strengthening this foundation through the development of information and tools for practice facilitation and practice improvement, investment in primary care transformation grants, research and evaluation of the patient-centered medical home model, training to support delivery of team-based health care, and in many other ways.
As America’s population grows and ages and as more people are living with complex conditions, our Nation’s primary care system must adapt to meet the country’s changing needs. But making those changes while also caring for patients is challenging, especially for small- and medium-sized practices where 88 percent of office visits take place.1
Large practices and those affiliated with large health systems often have access to technology, training, and other supports to help them implement change and work efficiently while keeping their focus on patient care. Small- and medium-sized practices have fewer resources to keep up with these changes, but with support, they may be able to adapt faster and more nimbly to improve care.
EvidenceNOW provides that support, as well as an opportunity to identify effective methods for increasing the capacity of primary care practices to apply the latest evidence to improve patient care.
In recent years, a new approach has emerged for evaluating clinical evidence and its implementation: patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR). This approach focuses on things patients care about, such as pain, symptoms, course of illness, and quality of life. It compares different medical treatments, approaches, and interventions to understand which are most effective for which people and under what circumstances. PCOR has quickly become fundamental to advancing all aspects of America’s health care system.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (PCORTF), which provides funds to conduct and disseminate PCOR. Some of these funds are allocated to AHRQ to guide implementation of PCOR findings into clinical practice.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched Million Hearts®. This national initiative aimed to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes in 5 years by empowering people to make healthy choices and improving care for those who need it. The goal of improving care focuses on the “ABCS” of cardiovascular care: A for aspirin for those at risk of a heart attack or stroke, B for blood pressure control, C for cholesterol management, and S for smoking cessation.
With PCORTF funding, a continued focus on primary care practice improvement, and in alignment with the goals of Million Hearts®, AHRQ developed EvidenceNOW to 1) help small- and medium-sized practices implement the ABCS to improve heart health for patients at risk for heart disease, and 2) identify effective methods for increasing practices’ capacity for understanding and using PCOR findings and other types of medical evidence.
In this way, EvidenceNOW improves care for patients both now and in the future.
1Hing E RP, Palso K. National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2013 State and National Summary Tables. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ahcd/ahcd_products.htm