The Future of HSR: Beginning a Dialog with the Field

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

As I prepared to travel to Seattle for AcademyHealth’s 35th Annual Research Meeting (ARM), I had been thinking about the opportunity the meeting would afford to begin a critical dialog about the future of health services research (HSR).

As the Director of AHRQ, I have made it my mission to position the Agency to serve the American people in the rapidly shifting digital health care ecosystem and made it a call to action for my colleagues at AHRQ. If you have read my previous AHRQ Views blogs, you know that my vision is that state-of-the-art health services research should be transdisciplinary, data-driven, and should put patients at its center.

To envision the HSR field of tomorrow we need to probe three issues that I believe are critical to that future:

  • First, how can we be more fully attuned to the research questions and the unmet needs of the entire health services delivery system?
  • Second, given the volume, variety, and velocity of the data being generated from and flowing into the health care ecosystem, what innovative opportunities do the vast array of new disruptive technology solutions, including blockchain, informatics, deep learning, and artificial intelligence, present for the research community?
  • Third, what can we do to adopt a more holistic, trans-disciplinary, and person-360 approach to research?

It is important to take the next step and engage health system leaders—or as I like to call them, the operationalizers—in this conversation, and to ask how we can support health services research that improves both health care and the health of our Nation. We need to get these leaders involved early in helping us determine what questions they need answered to unlock their pain points, address their burning platforms, and fulfill their unmet needs for data. They also can guide us to understand the best way to deliver information to them in a way that is useful, operable, and sustainable.

In short, we as a health services research community need our users to help us understand how we can make a larger impact and help them make measureable improvements in the quality and safety of health and health care.

I started this dialog at AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting with a session on Monday, June 25, titled, “Moving Beyond p<0.05: Making Health Services Research Relevant to the C-Suite.” The session brought together C-Suite leaders to discuss how they think about data, social determinants of care, evidence, and research.

We want to learn how the C-Suite uses HSR and data, and what they will need in the future. In a nutshell, how do we in the world of HSR take stock of the changing landscape of the health care ecosystem, given the shifts in the industry, delivery systems, and mergers and acquisitions, as well as demographic, technological, and socioeconomic factors to recalibrate, reimagine, and redefine HSR.

Given these changes and trends in health and wellness, we need to ask how does the traditional health care-centric approach to HSR move towards a more transdisciplinary approach to research. For example, we need to explore how other disciplines such as informatics, social sciences, engineering, and business play a role in this new approach.

At the session, we asked audience members about their experiences providing research to the C-Suite and any lessons that they have learned.

My challenge to researchers and end users alike will be to think about how to make HSR more relevant in our ever-changing, digital world. As health care becomes increasingly complex, we must not only be relevant now, but we must also anticipate changes to remain relevant in the future.

Also, I want to assure you that if you did not attend the ARM, this will not be the only time to participate in this dialog. This is an ongoing conversation, and we will be reaching out to different groups of users and to researchers. If you have thoughts, please send them to me at

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