Doubling Down on Primary Care’s Campaign Against Heart Disease

By Bob McNellis, M.P.H., P.A., AHRQ‘s Senior Advisor for Primary Care
Twitter: @AHRQNews

If a fresh idea shows promise, it’s often worth repeating. When it comes to AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW, we’ve concluded the success is worth expanding.

Launched in 2015, “EvidenceNow: Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care” emerged as a groundbreaking initiative in which AHRQ grantees worked with more than 1,500 primary care practices to improve their ability to integrate new evidence into practice to improve heart health and prevent strokes.

Now, as we conclude American Heart Month, AHRQ is thrilled to double down on its commitment to getting the best evidence into the hands of primary care clinicians via a new funding opportunity: “Supporting Primary Care to Advance Cardiovascular Health in States with High Prevalence of Preventable CVD Events.” This opportunity represents part of AHRQ’s expanding portfolio of work to implement the best evidence into practice.

EvidenceNOW grantees helped improve heart health over the past 5 years by using existing primary care infrastructure to deliver quality improvement (QI) services such as practice facilitation, health information technology support, expert consultations and academic detailing, data feedback and benchmarking, and peer-to-peer learning collaboratives.

AHRQ’s new 3-year, $18 million initiative embraces a similar model. But unlike the first phase of EvidenceNOW, the Agency’s new effort is tightly aimed at helping primary care practices in States with the highest rates of preventable cardiovascular disease events. Selected grantees are not expected to have existing capacity to deliver QI services to primary care practices.

To create QI capacity where there is little or none, grantees will spend time building “cooperatives” by working with State partners who collectively have the resources, skills, and commitment to support primary care practice improvement. Partnering with a wide range of State stakeholders, including public health and community organizations, will be critical to successful coordination of primary care improvement activities.

In addition to building the cooperative, each grantee is expected to create a State-wide network of primary care practices, some of whom will participate in a heart health improvement project. Newly formed cooperatives will provide these practices with the QI services they need to reach heart health improvement goals. Evaluation and dissemination of findings will be also be components of their work.

By aligning clinical, public health, and community interventions, AHRQ believes the grantees can increase their impact on reducing patients’ cardiovascular risks and improving health outcomes. Extra value comes as AHRQ also learns what models work for which States.

As this new and innovative initiative unfolds, we expect the work to significantly boost the Agency’s growing contribution to a healthcare system that delivers 21st Century patient care. It is our hope that in the near future, once a few more American Heart Months have come and gone, we’ll be ready to expand on the story of how America’s primary care teams have doubled our impact on reducing the national burden of heart disease.

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