AHRQ Views: Blog posts from AHRQ leaders
AHRQ Advances New Frontiers in Digital Healthcare
We are at the beginning of a digital revolution in healthcare, and it’s an exciting time with the potential for innovative whole-person care, data- and evidence-based solutions, and improvements in health system performance.
There is a new frontier of virtual healthcare delivery in the 21st century. Technology can now make care available to people everywhere, and new approaches have the potential to foment new discoveries and redefine the marketplace. Ultimately, digital healthcare carries great promise to help patients better manage their conditions, coordinate their care and partner with their clinicians for better health.
These advances are only possible if the people, processes, and technologies that receive data from new sources are able to makes sense of the data and use them to make informed decisions. From the internet of things (IoT), which is capable of automatically generating data on medication management, to personal health trackers for steps and sleep, the next generation of digital healthcare must integrate multiple data streams to form a 360° understanding of behavior.
The transformation of the healthcare system will not happen without the active participation of patients, providers, payers and policymakers. Together, we have many challenges to address, in linking new and existing data streams in order to support new knowledge creation via advanced analytics to enhance value-based transformation. AHRQ is emerging as a leader in this space through the expansion of our data resources combined with the ability to support transdisciplinary research.
To tackle such challenges, we have taken a fresh look at the mission and status of our digital activities. As a result, we’ve established the Division of Digital Healthcare Research. This Division will support AHRQ’s aim to explore the enormous potential of data and the digitization of everything (DoE) to support the knowledge needs of providers, health systems, policymakers, and people.
The term ‘digital healthcare’ applies to activities involving the transfer of information between patient and provider throughout the entire patient journey, as well as the intelligent use of all related data. Given the possibilities that lie within that expansive landscape, there is a pressing need for new, energetic research initiatives to explore how the evolving digital healthcare ecosystem can best advance the quality, safety, and effectiveness of healthcare for patients and their families. Findings from these efforts would help bolster efforts to support Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s priority of ensuring our healthcare system rewards value, not volume.
In the coming months, we expect AHRQ’s efforts in digital healthcare research to yield more important insights. We will continue to build upon earlier foundational digital healthcare work by generating new digital healthcare knowledge and tools that are shareable, standards-based, publicly available, and whole-person oriented. A recent AHRQ funding opportunity announcement, for example, is intended to support large-scale projects that improve communication and care transitions via promising health information technologies.
We will also support research on how to effectively reduce provider burden and address safety issues through better information technology design. We understand that in today’s marketplace, care and cure are two sides of the same coin, where AHRQ delivers new research to improve care and supports evidence-based implementation in systems.
At AHRQ, we are guided by two fundamental principles to advance digital healthcare. One, we join others in the field who understand that digital healthcare research is the next frontier in the evolving digital healthcare ecosystem. And two, we view patient-facing technologies and the data they generate as areas of infinite possibilities. Digital healthcare is a new frontier of research and we look forward to your input on opportunities to improve the lives and wellbeing of all Americans.
Gopal Khanna is the Director of AHRQ.