Clinical decision support (CDS) has the ability to significantly impact improvements in quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has long supported efforts to develop, adopt, implement, and evaluate the use of CDS to improve health care decisionmaking.
Increasingly, innovative computer and information systems are being developed to help people manage health concerns, monitor important indicators of their health, and communicate with their caregivers. AHRQ supports research to determine how these patient-facing technologies can best improve the quality and effectiveness of care.
Research is needed in two key areas: how health IT can improve patient safety and how health IT itself can be safely used and implemented. AHRQ-funded research provides critical evidence in both areas, and the Program recently renewed a special emphasis notice reaffirming the intent to support research regarding the safety of health IT systems.
Health systems that effectively apply data and evidence to improve patient outcomes are called “learning health systems (LHSs).” AHRQ’s health IT program funds research on how health IT can best support LHSs, particularly in ambulatory care settings.
While patient-reported outcomes (PROs) offer a complementary perspective to that of clinician assessments, and may provide greater insights into health status, function, symptom burden, adherence, health behaviors, and quality of life, many electronic health record systems do not collect PRO data in structured or standardized ways that can allow for their use. AHRQ currently funds projects for how to collect and use PROs using health IT, as well as to scale and spread existing health IT models that currently incorporate PROs.
AHRQ’s usability research focuses on how to design and implement electronic health records (EHRs) so that they are more intuitive to use and more readily support clinical workflow. Two areas of research, supported by the AHRQ projects below, are how to effectively reduce documentation burden for physicians and how to make data within EHRs more usable for clinical decision-making.