The FY 2022 President’s Budget Request for AHRQ: Building Back Better

By David Meyers, MD, Acting Director, AHRQ
Twitter: @AHRQNews

This past year has been difficult for all of us. Throughout it, I’ve been awed by the dedication and resiliency of healthcare professionals across the Nation. Similarly, I’ve been impressed by the commitment of the team at AHRQ that ensured that all of AHRQ’s efforts to increase quality, safety, equity, and value in healthcare continued.

More impressively, the AHRQ team created new funding opportunities to allow health systems researchers already in the field to focus on the response by delivery systems to COVID-19, built a learning community with over 9,000 nursing homes to increase the use of evidence-based infection control practices to keep residents and staff safe, and used AHRQ data resources to perform some of the earliest analyses of state-level hospital intensive care unit capacity.

It is deeply gratifying to see the value of AHRQ’s contributions recognized in the President’s FY 2022 budget request to Congress. The President calls for AHRQ to remain an independent Agency and appropriates $380 million to support the Agency’s work next year, a $42 million increase. With an additional estimated $109 million of funds from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund, AHRQ will be able to meet our aim of helping healthcare systems and professionals provide higher quality, safer, more equitable, and higher value care. The budget is notable in its specifics:

AHRQ will invest an additional $23 million in health services research, with $16 million in broad investigator-initiated research; $5 million in new grants to understand healthcare delivery system innovations during the COVID-19 pandemic; and $3 million in new grants to evaluate and spread health system efforts to advance equity in care delivery.

For the first time, AHRQ will receive dedicated funding for primary care research. We will invest $10 million to catalyze new models of primary care, foster primary care practice-based research networks, and support learning networks to ensure policy and clinical evidence is applied and used.

Aligned with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) priorities, AHRQ will receive an additional $7 million for research to improve the Nation’s response to the opioid and polysubstance abuse epidemics. As part of a larger HHS-wide initiative, AHRQ will receive $7.5 million to fund the first year of a 5-year series of linked initiatives to provide Federal, State, and local policy makers with better data and insights into maternal health.

Woven throughout the budget proposal are activities to advance equity. In addition to health systems research, AHRQ will offer diversity supplements to expand the health services research workforce, develop resources to assist health systems in using their own data to address equity, and invest in ensuring AHRQ itself is a just and equitable place to work.

These critical new investments will not be made at the expense of other AHRQ priorities. The budget provides full funding for AHRQ’s patient safety efforts, including patient safety learning labs and our efforts to reduce healthcare-associated infections and the emergence of antibiotic- resistant bacteria. The proposed budget fully funds the Agency’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, digital healthcare research, and AHRQ’s scientific support for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Before the release of the President’s budget proposal, the team at AHRQ was already imagining a revitalized, post-pandemic healthcare delivery system and taking action to catalyze its development. In past weeks we have released a special emphasis notice encouraging evaluations of health system interventions to increase equity, released a guide on investing in trust to increase vaccine confidence in nursing home front-line workers, and formed a cross-Agency working group to coordinate our many telehealth activities.

We know that the next few years offer a window of opportunity to create a more resilient, integrated, and patient-centered healthcare system. We envision a system dedicated to achieving health equity and improving patient and worker safety while harnessing technological innovation to improve both quality and value. The President’s FY 2022 budget request for AHRQ is a solid down payment on the work we need to do to transform our healthcare system.

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