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AHRQ's Integrated Delivery System Research Network Starts First Studies

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Press Release Date: October 17, 2000

John M. Eisenberg, M.D., director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), today announced 10 research projects for the recently created Integrated Delivery System Research Network (IDSRN). The network—a new model of field-based research designed by AHRQ—links the nation's top researchers with some of the largest health care systems for conducting fast-track research on cutting-edge issues in health care. The 10 awards, funded for a total of approximately $2.4 million, will be completed within nine months to two-and-a-half years.

"These projects are designed specifically to provide policymakers and health care managers with evidence needed for critical health care decisions on our immediate horizon," said Dr. Eisenberg.

The IDSRN projects are grouped into two categories—those that will inform the development of the nation's data and measurement capacity, and those that will inform 'best practices' of how to structure health care organizations.

The projects for informing the development of data and management capacity will:

  • Build capacity to study racial/ethnic disparities in access, use, and outcomes. The USQA Center for Healthcare Research, a subsidiary of Aetna Healthcare located in Atlanta, will examine the current capacity of health plans to study racial/ethnic disparities using managed care organization databases, and it will identify potential strategies for improving such capacity. Project completion: 6/01. Funding: $171,170.
  • Validate the Agency's HCUP Quality Indicators, a software tool that can be used with hospital administrative data for hospital self-assessment. The Research Triangle Institute in Research Triangle, North Carolina will test the validity of AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Quality Indicators, a quality measurement software tool based on hospital administrative data. In validating the software tool, the Institute will use data other than hospital administrative data. Project completion: 3/02. Funding: $449,007.
  • Evaluate the potential of private sector data to augment public sector data for use in annual report on the state of quality in the United States. Minneapolis' Center for Healthcare Policy and Evaluation, an independent research institute affiliated with UnitedHealth Group, will evaluate the feasibility of using data from private health care organizations in developing AHRQ's annual National Quality Report. The report, scheduled for publication first in FY 2003, will provide a comprehensive picture of the quality of the nation's health care system. Project completion: 3/02. Funding: $399,884.

The projects for expanding understanding of "best practices" will:

  • Assess variations in the management of cardiovascular disease. The United HealthGroup-affiliated Center for Healthcare Policy and Evaluation will assess socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, and gender variations in the management of cardiovascular disease within and across different settings and models of care. Project completion: 11/01. Funding: $199,705.
  • Assess the impact of organizational interventions on quality of care and efficiency. The Marshfield Medical Research and Education Foundation in Marshfield, Wisconsin will evaluate several organizational interventions, including the redesign of its charity care program, and centralization of the clinic's medical management of anticoagulant therapy. Project completion: 9/01. Funding: $199,942.
  • Advance understanding of what hospital policies and practices underlie the volume-outcomes association for certain complex procedures. The United HealthGroup-associated Center for Healthcare Policy and Evaluation will conduct exploratory research to identify specific processes of care, which may be related or unrelated to volume, that might explain variations in outcomes of certain complex procedures. Project completion: 3/02. Funding: $249,973.
  • Advance understanding of how and to what extent health plans include quality-related provisions in their contracts with hospitals and other providers. The Marshfield Medical Research and Education Foundation will conduct a systematic review of 100 health plan contracts with providers to identify how different kinds of health plans (e.g., HMOs, PPOs) are operationalizing quality provisions in their provider contracts. Project completion: 6/01. Funding: $98,998.
  • Track and evaluate how a clinical practice guideline is implemented by a health plan. The Kaiser Foundation Research Institute of Oakland, California will evaluate the implementation of a clinical practice guideline within an integrated delivery system, which will involve AHRQ priority populations. Project completion: 3/02. Funding: $195,998
  • Understand barriers to the use of information technology within delivery systems. The Research Triangle Institute will conduct a project to increase understanding of barriers that undermine the diffusion of information technology within integrated delivery systems so that strategies can be tailored to overcome them. Project completion: 9/01. Funding: $200,000.
  • Examine delivery system's capacity for responding to threats to the public health, including those related to bioterrorism. New York's Weill Medical College, a part of Cornell University, will assess a health system's present capability of responding to and managing a public health threat. The researchers will model the recent influenza epidemic and a potential release of anthrax in New York City. Project completion: 9/01. Funding: $249,973.

For additional information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs, (301) 427-1364: Bob Isquith, (301) 427-1539 (

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