GAO Uses AHRQ Research in Report on IT and Government's Role in Emergency Preparedness
AHRQ's Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 59, Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response: Use of Information Technologies and Decision Support Systems, served as an important resource for a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on information technologies (IT) and the Federal government's role in bioterrorism preparedness. The GAO report, Bioterrorism: Information Technology (IT) Strategy Could Strengthen Federal Agencies' Abilities to Respond to Public Health Emergencies, presented an inventory of Federal agency IT initiatives to support bioterrorism readiness and identified the use of standards in these efforts.
The evidence report aided GAO in working with Federal agencies to develop a comprehensive list of Federal bioterrorism-related IT and decision support systems. Such a list did not exist prior to the publication of the GAO report. GAO staff used the evidence report as an information base for gathering further data from federal agencies with respect to their IT activities.
Yvonne Sanchez, an assistant director with GAO's IT team, states, "The report offered useful information with good detail. The most useful pieces for the GAO were the definitions and descriptions of the different categories of IT for bioterrorism-related systems."
The GAO used the terminology and criteria put forth in the evidence report to gather Federal agency consensus on the definitions of bioterrorism IT and decision support systems functions. Sanchez suggests that these definitions would likely assist in advancing future dialogue on how best to use IT to enhance preparedness for bioterrorism emergencies.
According to Sanchez, prior to the release of this evidence report, a common understanding of how IT could support different functions and what specific role technologies could serve in supporting bioterrorism preparedness did not exist. This evidence report may have served to foster Federal agency discussion on the topic. Given the recent national emphasis on IT adoption, such discussion has become more frequent.
Sanchez further notes that the issues addressed in the evidence report remain applicable today, three years after its publication. The American Health Information Community, a federally charged commission recently announced by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, adopted bio-surveillance as one of its priority national issues.