This year's AHRQ Annual Conference brought together nearly 1,500 professionals, many of whom have been engaged in efforts to transform the health care system for some time. The good news is that private health care systems and others are increasingly looking to health services research to provide evidence on how to improve care, safety, quality, and value. But to fulfill the promise of our research, it is urgent that we change the way we do our work, with whom, and how we report results.
Often researchers are not thinking about how their work fits into the larger picture. Research findings by design aren't always focused on how to put them into practice. We could learn from the Department of Defense, which is designing studies on acupuncture to treat pain, so that fewer soldiers are dependent on opioids.
The first questions asked of the research team focused on how the study could be scaled up rapidly: who would need to be trained and can a training program for medics be developed while the study is in progress? We don't really do that. We typically do the study first and then try to figure out how to train people. Our goal for this year's conference was to focus on the results of our research and how it can be used to improve health and health care.
The conference, "Moving Ahead: Leveraging Knowledge and Action To Improve Health Care Quality," focused on six themes: making care safer, engaging families and patients as partners in care, promoting communication and coordination of care, promoting effective prevention and treatment practices, working with communities to improve health, and making care more affordable.
Many conference sessions revealed the innovative ways in which public and private groups are leveraging unbiased research to drive change. For example, one session described several new programs that have reduced the number of injuries due to medical care, as well as lawsuits and costs related to medical errors. Another session discussed innovative technologies and strategies to engage patients with disabilities in their own care. Other sessions explored topics ranging from the challenges of sustaining, scaling, and spreading innovations in cardiovascular care, and barriers to meaningful use of electronic health records, to an examination of health insurance coverage strategies.
It was heartening to hear the tremendous strides made to improving care quality, safety, and efficiency profiled during our sessions. The energized and illuminating discussions at each session augur well for further advances in transforming our health care system.
Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.