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Tools for Monitoring the Health Care Safety Net

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By Carolyn Clancy, M.D.; Director; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

AHRQ, with the Health Resources and Services Administration, is pleased to bring you Tools for Monitoring the Health Care Safety Net, Book 3 of the Monitoring the Health Care Safety Net series. This product, its two companion publications, and a new Web-based Safety Net Profile Tool comprise a resource that will be invaluable for State and local health officials in making decisions about the health care services they provide to their most vulnerable citizens.

The term “safety net” in the singular is a misnomer. Our Nation has a network of 50 State safety nets, and each is the sum of countless local safety nets, including free care provided by physicians in private practice. The Safety Net series provides a framework for efforts that assess health care services resulting from the collective efforts of these providers at the State and local levels.

A significant priority for AHRQ is to develop tools, strategies, and information that the health care system can use to improve how they provide care to the American people. While States, local communities, and the private sector have made great strides in improving access to, and the quality of, health care, we know that there is much more to do. With the Safety Net series, the Federal Government will serve as a catalyst for future action. These materials empower State and local policymakers, planners, analysts, and others by giving them the tools they need to assess their existing safety nets, evaluate where there are gaps or questions they need to answer, and identify strategies for enhancing their systems.

AHRQ has a long track record of supporting State and local policy goals with evidence-based research and state-of-the-art data. A key to the success of these efforts is that we ensure that the findings of research and data are translated into formats that can be used immediately and effectively by policymakers.

An excellent example of our success is the Healthcare Cost & Utilization Project (HCUP), a partnership of data collection efforts of State data organizations, hospital associations, private data organizations, and the Federal Government to create a national information resource of discharge-level health care data. Another example is AHRQ’s User Liaison Project, which disseminates health services research to State and local health policymakers through interactive onsite workshops, teleconferences, distance learning programs, and research syntheses. Both of these programs have played an important role in the development of the safety net data and publications.

A touchstone for AHRQ is that the research we support and the products we develop meet the needs of our users. Therefore, we need your feedback. Let us know how you use the information in the Safety Net series and what additional information would be helpful to you in the future. Please send your comments to

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Current as of October 2003
AHRQ Publication No. 03-0027


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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