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AHRQ Annual Report on Research and Management, FY 2004

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Message from the Director

I am pleased to share the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's FY 2004 Annual Report on Research and Financial Management with you. This report highlights the Agency's programmatic and financial accomplishments. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)—one of 12 agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services—has a leadership role in finding answers to difficult questions that challenge the Nation's health care system. AHRQ's focus is on getting research results into the hands of those who can put it to practical use as rapidly as possible. This report demonstrates our resolve to improve the quality and delivery of health care services provided in this Nation, as well as our continued commitment to assure sound investments in programs that will make a difference.

AHRQ's research is based on the needs of our users—patients, clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers. The Agency's research provides the scientific foundation for the country's efforts to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of health care. AHRQ 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. The Agency also supports efforts to develop the tools, knowledge, and information used by the public and private sectors to measure and improve health care quality.

AHRQ recognizes that reducing medical errors and improving patient safety is critically important for enhancing the quality of health care. Developing our nation's health information technology infrastructure is integral to delivering safe, high quality health care services. Therefore, in concert with the Department's 10-year plan to transform health care delivery through the use of health information technology, the Agency began a series of projects aimed at increasing the adoption of information technology and speeding the transformation of health care services in America. These projects will provide insight into how best to use health information technologies to improve patient safety by reducing medication errors; bridging the communication gap between primary care physicians, specialists, and patients; and reducing duplicative and unnecessary testing. The growth in information technology and the demand for the best possible evidence to guide health care decisions will result in improved delivery of health care.

Every day it becomes more apparent that AHRQ's research is making a difference, as more patients, clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers seek evidence to inform their health care decisions. Our long-standing programs continue to inform health care decisions made at all levels of the health care system, while our newer programs are producing findings that promise to have a significant impact on the health care system.

I am also excited about our future direction, as we move to make AHRQ the "problem solving" agency for the health care system. This will require a greater focus on implementation research that is designed to develop and disseminate strategies to overcome barriers to the adoption of clinical interventions that are both effective and cost effective. We need to be more proactive in closing the gap between what we know is effective in health care and what is currently done in daily practice. We need to make the right thing to do the easy thing to do.

I take pride in our accomplishments to date, and I look forward to building on our past successes to achieve new gains for the American people. The end result of our research will be improvements in health care for Americans measured through improved quality of life and patient outcomes, lives saved, and value gained for what we spend.

Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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