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AHRQ's evidence-based health care programs focus on improving practice and policy

Many programs and patients benefit from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's evidence-based health care programs, according to a recent article by the Agency's Director, Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., and her AHRQ colleagues Jean R. Slutsky, P.A., M.S.P.H., and Larry Patton. For example, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program used AHRQ's evidence report, Management of Chronic Asthma, to update its asthma guidelines.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services used an AHRQ technology assessment in its decision to cover pneumatic compression therapy for certain patients with chronic venous insufficiency. As a result of AHRQ-funded research that demonstrated the benefits of using clinical pharmacists to work with a group of physicians to help control drug costs, one group was able to save over $5 million in pharmacy costs.

Dr. Clancy and her colleagues describe several essential programs, including AHRQ's 13 Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs). The EPCs review relevant scientific literature on clinical and behavioral topics, as well as the organization and financing of health care, to produce evidence reports and technology assessments. These reports provide the evidence needed to formulate clinical practice guidelines, practice policies, quality of care measures, and policy decisions, such as whether or not Medicare will cover a particular treatment or procedure.

Other relevant AHRQ programs include the National Guideline Clearinghouse™ (NGC) and the Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs). The NGC is a unique database of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and related documents that are available at wwww.guideline.gov. The CERTs increase awareness of the uses and risks of drugs and drug combinations, biological products, and devices, as well as mechanisms to improve their safe and appropriate use.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is a panel of private-sector experts in primary care and prevention sponsored by AHRQ. The Task Force reviews the evidence of effectiveness of clinical preventive services such as screening tests, counseling, and immunizations. Finally, AHRQ's recent investments in health information technology will support the effective use of HIT to accelerate the use of evidence-based information to improve the quality, safety and value of health care.

For more information, see "Evidence-based health care 2004: AHRQ moves research to translation and implementation," by Dr. Clancy, Ms. Slutsky, and Mr. Patton, in the October 2004 Health Services Research 39(5), pp. xv-xxxiii.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 05-R005) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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