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AHRQ Annual Report on Research and Management, FY 2001

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Message from the Director

I am pleased to present the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's FY 2001 Accountability Report, which conveys the Agency's key program and financial management activities and highlights what we have accomplished with the resources entrusted to us.

This report demonstrates how the research sponsored by AHRQ provides the scientific foundation for the Nation's efforts to improve the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of health care, as well as developing strategies to broaden access to services. The Agency supports the work of health services researchers at the Nation's leading academic centers through extramural grants and contracts and maintains a rigorous intramural research program that collects and analyzes data to understand changes in health care quality, cost, use, and access. AHRQ also supports efforts to develop the tools and information used by the public and private sectors to measure and improve health care quality.

FY 2001 was a very dynamic year for AHRQ. We completed a seamless transition to our new identity as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. As we have affirmed over the last year, the new name is more than symbolic. As AHRQ, we have cemented our role as the lead Federal agency supporting and conducting research to improve quality, enhance the outcomes and effectiveness of health care services, and identify strategies to improve access, foster appropriate use, and reduce unnecessary expenditures.

Our research portfolio, which reflects the needs of our customers, is making a difference in the health of the public. Through our Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) program, the findings of our research conducted by AHRQ staff and grantees are being translated into improvements in clinical care and in the structure and delivery of health care services. As part of that agenda, we are making a concerted effort to track the impact of our research.

Over the last year, we have supported new investigator-initiated projects from the best and brightest health services researchers, and we have funded new targeted initiatives to help ensure that Americans get high-quality, safe health care. Among the new initiatives is a $50 million program in patient safety research—the largest single investment of its kind in this critical research area by the Federal Government. We also supported training programs that have helped nurture the careers of established health services researchers and given a boost to new investigators.

AHRQ also has continued to work in partnership with our fellow Federal agencies and with private-sector organizations to improve the quality and safety of health care services, For example, in FY 2001, AHRQ in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, established the Patient Safety Task Force to improve existing systems to collect data on patient safety. The goal of this Task Force is to identify the data that health care providers, States, and others need to collect in order to improve patient safety.

Our long-standing programs continue to inform health care decisions made at all levels of the health care system, while our newer programs are releasing findings that promise to have a significant impact on the health care system. Also, the third U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has begun to release recommendations that will greatly enhance the preventive services patients receive.

Looking ahead, I am confident that our future will be very bright and that we will have many more accomplishments to celebrate. The end result of our research will be measurable improvements in health care in America, gauged in terms of improved quality of life and patient outcomes, lives saved, and value gained for what we spend. I am proud of our accomplishments to date and look forward to building on our past successes to achieve new gains for the American people.

John M. Eisenberg, M.D.
Director
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

John M. Eisenberg, M.D., 1946-2002

This report is dedicated to the memory of AHRQ director John M. Eisenberg, M.D. Dr. Eisenberg passed away on March 10, 2002, following a year-long illness, just as this report was going to press. He had been director of AHRQ since 1997. All of his colleagues at AHRQ and in the Department of Health and Human Services mourn his untimely passing.

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Message from the Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

I take pride in the organizational, systems, and financial accountability improvements AHRQ achieved in FY 2001. In this report, we address our efforts to:

  • Link our budget, program, and financial performance information.
  • Highlight major programmatic and managerial accomplishments.
  • Interpret and analyze our financial performance.

We are continuing to strengthen AHRQ's business practices to ensure that Agency resources are used appropriately, efficiently, and effectively. These efforts include the use of new and existing technologies and strategies, such as electronic mail or messaging, the World Wide Web, electronic bulletin boards, purchase cards, electronic funds transfer, and electronic data interchange. We also are taking steps to enhance management of AHRQ's information systems infrastructure, with a focus on information security that directly maps to the Department's Information Technology 5-Year Strategic Plan.

We reorganized and revised AHRQ's performance plan to enhance its clarity and usefulness as a strategic management tool. The revised plan is more closely aligned with goals that reflect the agency's vision, mission, and strategic goals. As a result of the increased emphasis on strategic planning, evaluation activities have assumed a greater role in overall Agency operations. Evaluations are used to demonstrate the impact of Agency work on the health care system, test and improve the usefulness and usability of agency products, and assess the effectiveness and efficiencies of internal operations. The results of the evaluation studies are used to make planning, budget, and operations decisions in subsequent years.

In response to AHRQ's expanding scope and mission, we completed four workforce planning related activities this year:

  • Evaluating the Agency's recruitment process.
  • More clearly defining work functions and processes.
  • Refining the technical competencies needed by staff.
  • Developing a comprehensive 5-year workforce restructuring plan that reflects Agency needs and departmental priorities.

A number of followup activities are planned in FY 2002.

As acting CFO, my goals are to promote sound financial management through effective leadership, insightful policy development, and unobtrusive oversight; create an infrastructure to carry out financial management policies; and produce timely and reliable financial information about our programs. I believe this report demonstrates the strides AHRQ has made as we continue to work toward these goals.

Barry Flaer
Acting Chief Financial Officer

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