AHRQ’s Commitment to Meeting Unmet Needs in the Healthcare System

By Gopal Khanna, M.B.A., Director of AHRQ
Twitter: @AHRQNews

The healthcare landscape is facing dramatic changes. Transformation is being driven by unprecedented mergers and acquisitions, new technologies in the marketplace, and the volume, variety, and velocity of available data. Change is occurring with phenomenal speed across the healthcare ecosystem.

We must harness this change to address the serious health challenges we continue to face. There continues to be dramatic growth in the number of patients with multiple chronic conditions—25 percent of all Americans and a whopping 80 percent of people over 80. Estimates suggest one in five Americans will be 65 and older in 2030.

While death rates attributable to cardiovascular disease and cancer are falling, the average life expectancy of Americans has begun to decrease. We are challenged by new epidemics of obesity and substance abuse. As the AHRQ National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report documents, our Nation still faces substantial disparities in health and healthcare.

Another significant issue continuing to plague healthcare is persistent threats to patient safety—115 safety events still occur for every 1,000 hospitalizations in the United States, costing $6,000 – $20,000 per event. While AHRQ recently was able to document continued national improvement in the rate of hospital-acquired conditions, more progress is needed. An emerging concern is diagnostic errors. An estimated 12 million people each year are affected by diagnostic errors, with approximately 4 million suffering serious harm. Improving diagnosis will not only improve quality and safety, it has the potential to improve the value of care as well.

Tackling any one of these challenges is a tall order, not only for physicians, nurses, and other providers, but also for Federal, State, and local policymakers, who are trying to make qualitative and quantitative policy decisions in the absence of reliable, integrated, and accessible information. Together, all of these create not only a potential perfect storm in the healthcare service delivery ecosystem, but potential opportunities for system-wide solutions as well.

One of my priorities as AHRQ director has been to meet with Department of Health and Human Services leadership, healthcare professionals, researchers, technologists, innovators, disruptors, and State and local policymakers to learn about their unmet needs and what will help them to succeed.

As a result, I have guided AHRQ’s staff in honing the Agency’s core competencies in health systems research, practice improvement, and data and analytics to focus on the systemic unmet needs in our health care ecosystem. This underscores AHRQ’s commitment to helping our partners address these challenges, and improve the quality, safety, and value of health care.

Moving into 2019 and beyond, AHRQ will continue our focus on helping to meet the unmet research needs in the healthcare service delivery system and ensure that the patient is at the center of those efforts.

It is important to note that any efforts to address unmet needs must take advantage of the evolving digital world in which we live. This requires AHRQ, our stakeholders in health systems research, and our customers to rethink and reimagine how the application of science and research will make the delivery of care safer, higher quality, higher value, and more whole-person centered to improve the lives of patients in the future.

I am very excited about our continued focus on the unmet improvement needs across the healthcare delivery continuum and the impact it can have on us achieving AHRQ’s true mission: to improve the lives of patients.

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