AHRQ's director defends agency's work

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 - Quality_Measures

The proposed federal budget for 2016 included no further funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). In an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), AHRQ Director Richard Kronick, PhD, defended the agency and its work.

AHRQ’s budget is about 1/100th of 1 percent of national health spending, Kronick noted. The return on investment of the agency’s work already is relatively high and “I am confident that if more money were devoted to trying to figure out how to improve the delivery of care, the return would continue to be extremely large.”

For example, an AHRQ report from December 2014 showed that in 2010 there were 145 adverse events per 1000 hospitalizations which was reduced to 121 per 1000 in 2013. Although Kronick acknowledged that figure is still too high, “that 17 percent reduction translated into 50,000 lives saved and $12 billion in cost savings. Much of the basic evidence about how to improve care came from work that was funded at AHRQ.”

AHRQ’s health IT line item took the biggest hit in the agency’s 2016 request for funding, according to JAMA. The journal noted that the EHR is an important data source for a lot of AHRQ’s missions and asked Kronick if AHRQ is getting out of the health IT business.

“Not at all,” he said. “We continue to make substantial investments in research to figure out how health information technology can be used to improve quality and safety, how it can be used to improve outcomes for patients and to improve the delivery of healthcare.”

Because Congress has added targeted funds for grants to improve the safety of health IT systems, the agency can withstand the decrease, he said.

Read the complete interview.