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AHRQ launches new Effective Health Care Program

AHRQ has launched its new Effective Health Care Program to help clinicians and patients determine which drugs and other medical treatments work best for certain health conditions. Thirteen new research centers, as well as an innovative center for communicating findings, were named as part of the three-part program.

The $15 million program will support the development of new scientific information through research on the outcomes of health care services and therapies, including drugs. By reviewing and synthesizing published and unpublished scientific studies, as well as identifying important issues where existing evidence is insufficient, the program will help provide clinicians and patients with better information for making treatment decisions.

The new program includes three components:

  • Comparative Effectiveness Reviews. The program builds on the existing network of 13 Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs). The EPCs will focus on comparing the relative effectiveness of different treatments, including drugs, and identifying gaps in knowledge where new research is needed.
  • Network of Research Centers. A new network of 13 Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness (DEcIDE) research centers will carry out accelerated studies, including research aimed at filling knowledge gaps about treatment effectiveness. Operating under strict procedures to guarantee privacy and security, DEcIDE centers will use de-identified data available through insurers, health plans and other partner organizations to answer questions about the use, benefits and risks of medications and other therapies. Collectively, the DEcIDE centers will have access to de-identified medical data for millions of patients, including Medicare's 42 million beneficiaries.
  • Making Findings Clear for Different Audiences. A new Clinical Decisions and Communications Science Center, named the Eisenberg Center in honor of the late AHRQ director, John M. Eisenberg, M.D., is an innovative effort aimed at improving communication of findings to a variety of audiences, including consumers, clinicians, payers, and health care policy makers. The center will translate findings in ways appropriate for the needs of the different stakeholders. It also will conduct its own program of research into effective communication of research findings, in order to improve usability and rapid incorporation of findings into medical practice.

The new program was authorized under Section 1013 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. An initial set of 10 priority conditions of special importance for Medicare was announced last December, including ischemic heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, and others. A hallmark of the program will be the transparency of the data and processes used to arrive at findings.

More information on the Effective Health Care Program can be found on its Web site www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.

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