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AHRQ supports a variety of information technology initiatives to improve health care quality

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is working together with other Federal agencies and public and private sector partners to develop a National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) that can support the needs of clinicians, patients, researchers, public health officials, payers, and policymakers. The Agency is also working with public and private sector partners on a wide range of information technology (IT) initiatives to improve patient safety, health care quality, public health, and bioterrorism preparedness, notes Eduardo Ortiz, M.D., M.P.H., of AHRQ's Center for Primary Care, Prevention, and Clinical Partnerships.

In a recent article on Federal initiatives, Dr. Ortiz points out that in 2001, AHRQ funded 94 projects to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety in the United States. One such initiative is the Clinical Informatics to Promote Patient Safety (CLIPS) program. Projects funded through the CLIPS portfolio include studies assessing the use of a wide range of IT tools in diverse health care settings, such as hand held computerized decision support tools in ambulatory care, computerized simulation tools to train surgeons in hospitals, and electronic medical record systems with decision support in the management of patients with HIV infection.

AHRQ's bioterrorism portfolio focuses on the roles of clinicians, hospitals, and health care systems in public health preparedness and includes efforts to improve the linkages between clinical health care systems, emergency response networks, and public health agencies. It also includes efforts to train clinicians to recognize the manifestations of bioterrorism agents, respond to potential bioterrorism threats, and manage patients appropriately. For example, one project used computer simulations to develop models for planning city-wide responses to bioterrorism attacks, including the optimal distribution of antibiotics and improvement of hospital treatment capacity.

AHRQ is also developing many strategic partnerships to enhance patient safety and quality of care. One of these partnerships is with ePocrates, Inc., of San Mateo, CA, which maintains the largest network of clinicians using hand held computers in the United States. AHRQ will distribute recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to health care professionals through ePocrates' DocAlert® messaging system. AHRQ's Primary Care Practice-Based Research Networks and Integrated Delivery System Research Networks are also conducting important research on the use of IT in a variety of clinical settings.

For more information, see "The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality supports an array of IT initiatives to improve healthcare quality," by Dr. Ortiz, in the January 2003 Healthcare Informatics, pp. 49-51.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 03-R023) are available the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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