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Impact of health services research: Moving beyond serendipity

A major focus of health care research is understanding how research leads to improvements in health care delivery and health policy. A clear challenge for the field is identifying how research findings are used and implemented. Growing interest in the use of knowledge and knowledge transfer clearly underscores the importance of learning which strategies are most likely to lead to discernible impact.

The Impact Case Studies Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, located within AHRQ's Office of Health Care Information (OHCI), systematically tracks, updates, documents, and explains how AHRQ-supported research affects health care. In a recent article, Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Acting Director of AHRQ, and Lisa Simpson, M.B., B.Ch., M.P.H., Deputy Director of AHRQ, describe the program.

Drs. Clancy and Simpson note that the challenge for health services researchers is to identify beforehand—when they are planning their research—who will use the findings, instead of waiting to see after the research is completed who is using it. They advise investigators to ask potential users what they want to know, partner with them during the research design phase, clearly communicate the findings, and let funders know who is using the research and how they are using it.

Drs. Clancy and Simpson encourage researchers to send impact case study leads to AHRQ's Public Affairs office at

For more information, including several examples of AHRQ research in action, see "Looking forward to impact: Moving beyond serendipity," by Drs. Clancy and Simpson, in the August 2002 Health Services Research 37(4), pp. xiv-xxii.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 02-R093) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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