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Initial projects are funded for AHRQ'S Integrated Delivery System Research Network

Ten research projects have been funded for the recently created Integrated Delivery System Research Network (IDSRN). The network is a new model of field-based research designed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It 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 9 months to 2-½ years. 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. The Research Triangle Institute in 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. Project completion 3/02. Funding $449,007.
  • Evaluate the potential of private-sector data to augment public-sector data for use in preparing an annual report on health care quality. The Minneapolis-based Center for Healthcare Policy and Evaluation, an independent research institute affiliated with the United Health Group, will evaluate the feasibility of using data from private health care organizations in developing AHRQ's new annual National Quality Report. The report, scheduled to be published for the first time 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 Health Group-affiliated Center for Healthcare Policy and Evaluation will assess variations in the management of cardiovascular disease within and across different settings and models of care as they relate to patients' socioeconomic status, sex, race, and ethnicity. 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, WI, will evaluate several organizational interventions, including the redesign of its charity care program, and centralization of the clinic's medical management of anticoagulation therapy. Project completion 9/01. Funding $199,942.
  • Identify the hospital policies and practices that underlie the volume-outcomes association for certain complex procedures. The United Health Group-associated Center for Healthcare Policy and Evaluation will conduct exploratory research to identify specific processes of care, related or unrelated to volume, that might explain variations in outcomes of certain complex procedures. Project completion 3/02. Funding $249,973.
  • Determine 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 using 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, CA, will evaluate the implementation of a clinical practice guideline within an integrated delivery system that involves AHRQ's priority populations. Project completion 3/02. Funding $195,998.
  • Identify barriers to the use of information technology within delivery systems. The Research Triangle Institute will identify 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 the delivery system's capacity for responding to public health threats, including 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.

AHRQ is actively seeking input on research topics to be considered in developing future IDSRN projects. If your organization would like to recommend one or more topics for consideration or you need more information, please contact Cynthia Palmer, M.Sc., IDSRN Project Officer, at (301) 427-1441 or via E-mail at

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