A Year in the Life of Digital Healthcare Research: New Findings from AHRQ’s DHR Program

By Gopal Khanna, MBA, Director of AHRQ and Chris Dymek, Ed.D, Director of AHRQ’s Digital Healthcare Research Program
Twitter: @AHRQNews

As we look at today’s rapidly changing healthcare ecosystem, one thing is clear: innovations in digital technology have enormous potential for improving patient care.

But equally true is the reality that implementing these advances—making sure that new digital technologies have practical benefits for patients and clinicians—can be very challenging.

Earlier this year, we announced that the Agency had launched the Division of Digital Healthcare Research (DHR). We did so because the advances that digital technology represent are only possible if the new discoveries and innovations impacting people and processes are successfully tied to improvements in safety and quality of care, patient outcomes, and health system performance.

In fact, that’s the very definition of 21st century care—cutting edge, whole-person care, driven by data- and evidence-based solutions, which help patients better manage their health conditions, and allow patients and their clinicians to work together to achieve the best outcomes possible for themselves, their families, and loved ones.

That’s why we’re excited to release our annual report that describes how AHRQ‘s DHR program is making important strides in tackling these critical challenges.

The DHR program’s 2019 Year in Review highlights new, energetic AHRQ-funded research projects that address some of today’s most exciting digital healthcare topics, from how virtual reality can enhance patient care to how geolocation data can improve care coordination.

Taken as whole, the 2019 Year in Review shows how the Agency’s research is having an impact on:

  • Improving patient-centered care.
  • Supporting clinicians and other healthcare professionals in providing health services.
  • Leveraging data and technology to strengthen health systems.

To illustrate growing momentum in the field, the report spotlights in particular two signature DHR efforts. The first of these efforts is the development and dissemination of evidence-based clinical decision support (CDS) to improve patient care. By way of example, the report cites the work of AHRQ-funded researchers who have made important strides in using CDS in lung cancer screening as well as enhancing safe prescribing practices for geriatric patients in emergency departments.

Second, the report describes the advancement of the knowledge base about how to digitally collect and use patient-reported outcomes (PROs). As illustrated by AHRQ-funded research, PROs have shown exciting potential to maximize the time spent between patients and clinicians, as well as helping clinicians synthesize and communicate complex information in patient encounters.

AHRQ’s CDS and PRO research initiatives provide real-world demonstrations of interoperable, innovative digital solutions. They shed light on what is feasible, where further challenges exist, and what might be needed to overcome those challenges.

We recognize that research findings only provide benefit when they are disseminated and put to use in everyday practice. With that in mind, the DHR report also includes videos and other materials from two well-attended DHR webinars. In one, experts provided a compelling overview of an AHRQ “authoring tool” designed to support standard-based CDS. In another, webinar participants discussed the growing promise of digital interventions to improve care transitions.

The maturation of digital healthcare research is a story that is unfolding quickly. The innovations and breakthroughs of today—and the investments that make them possible — are building blocks to patient care that is safer, higher quality, and more efficient and affordable. We hope you’ll read our report as a compelling snapshot of the growing momentum among healthcare delivery systems, healthcare professionals, and the U.S. healthcare system.

And as we look ahead, we invite you to share the journey with us and hope you’ll send your comments, questions, or suggestions by contacting us at DigitalHealthcareResearch@ahrq.hhs.gov. Digital healthcare is a new frontier of research, and we look forward to your input on opportunities to improve the lives and wellbeing of all Americans.

This article was originally published on AHRQ Views Blog and is republished here with permission.