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New publications now available from AHRQ

The following program note, methodology report, and research syntheses were published recently by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Compendium of AHRQ Research Related to Mental Health. Program Note 6 (AHRQ Publication No. 03-0001).

AHRQ has a broad portfolio of mental health research and other related activities, ranging from intramural studies to grants, contracts, and workshops. This compendium provides an overview of the research and activities carried out or sponsored by AHRQ from 1989 to the present. The research projects and other activities are organized into broad sections such as extramural research grants/contracts, intramural research, and meetings sponsored by AHRQ. These broader sections are categorized into subject-matter areas: extramural research is grouped by type of disorder or problem (such as depression) or a cross-cutting topic (such as pharmaceuticals); intramural research is grouped by health services research topics (such as access). Many of the entries include the information needed to access the research. Some research results are available in print as journal articles or AHRQ reports, and some are available on the Web or as audiotapes. Brief descriptions of findings are included when available.

The journal articles and AHRQ reports are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Sommers JP. Estimation of Expenditures and Enrollments for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance. MEPS Methodology Report No. 14 (AHRQ Publication No. 03-0009).

AHRQ conducts the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a survey of health care use and spending. The MEPS Insurance Component (IC) is a survey of business establishments and governments in the United States. It is focused on employer-sponsored health insurance—by far the largest source of health insurance in the United States. This report gives details of the enrollment and expenditure estimation process in the IC. Parts of this process use very standard statistical estimates. Where the estimation process deviates from standard methods, more detail is provided. The report also discusses changes in the data collected and the estimators used that have taken place since the first IC survey year.

The journal articles and AHRQ reports are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Research syntheses. AHRQ's research translation team produces the Research in Action series of publications, which synthesize AHRQ research findings on a particular topic, as well as related research from the field.

Six syntheses have been published recently and are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse:

  • Medical Informatics for Better and Safer Health Care. Research in Action No. 6 (AHRQ Publication No. 02-0031).
    Medical informatics deals with all aspects of understanding and promoting the effective organization, analysis, management, and use of information in health care. This synthesis describes AHRQ-supported research into computer systems and software programs designed for use by clinicians to improve the quality of care, help with medication management, reduce costs, enhance patient self-management of chronic diseases, and help protect against bioterrorism and detect disease agents. Topics covered include the electronic medical record system, access to current information, clinical reminders, clinical decision support, electronic communication, and patient education.
  • Prescription Drug Therapies: Reducing Costs and Improving Outcomes. Research in Action No. 8 (AHRQ Publication No. 02-0045).
    Prescription drug spending doubled from $60.8 billion in 1995 to $121.8 billion in 2000. This publication describes AHRQ-supported research on the cost-effective use of prescription drugs. This research helps to identify drug therapies that can lower health care costs while maintaining quality of care.
  • Reducing Costs in the Health Care System: Learning from What Has Been Done. Research in Action No. 9 (AHRQ Publication No. 02-0046).
    Today's policymakers are searching for ways to decrease health care cost inflation without reducing access to needed health care services or creating undue burdens for providers. This synthesis describes research conducted and funded by AHRQ that focuses on the dynamic or interactive effects of cost-containment strategies, estimating the likely effects of efforts in one sector on the rest of the system.
  • AHRQ Tools and Resources for Better Health Care. Research in Action No. 10 (AHRQ Publication No. 03-0008).
    This report describes the tools and resources that AHRQ makes available to health care policymakers, administrators, employers and other purchasers of health insurance, clinicians, and consumers. These include data resources and tools such as the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), HIVnet, CAHPS® (formerly known as the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Study), the Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Tool, and Put Prevention into Practice (PPIP).
    Online resources available from AHRQ include the National Guideline Clearinghouse™, the Child Health Toolbox, and AHRQ's Quality Indicators.
  • AHRQ Tools for Managed Care. Research in Action No. 11 (AHRQ Publication No. 03-0016).
    Managed care organizations need ready access to a comprehensive array of evidence-based clinical information and other clinical performance measures to enable them to evaluate their providers' performance and identify areas where improvement is needed. AHRQ has funded research to compile a database of evidence-based clinical guidelines and to develop clinical performance measures, member satisfaction surveys, and preventive care recommendations. This synthesis describes these tools and how they have been used and provides information on sources of additional information.
  • Advance Care Planning: Preferences for Care at the End of Life. Research in Action No. 12 (AHRQ Publication No. 03-0018).
    The aging of the population has given new importance to the need for end-of-life discussions and advance directives. Although research funded by AHRQ indicates that advance directives are underused, it also shows that most patients are willing to discuss end-of-life options with their doctors. Research also shows that while such discussions are usually reserved for the terminally ill, advance care planning is also a good idea for people suffering from chronic illnesses. This synthesis of findings from AHRQ-funded studies shows that fewer than half of severely or terminally ill patients have an advance directive in their medical record. Only 12 percent of patients who have advance directives had help from physicians in developing them. Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians were unaware of the existence of an advance directive.

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