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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

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Introduction to Health Services Research : A Self-Study Course

Module 3: Selected Players (Federal and Private) (Page 3 of 27)

Federal Players

This section looks at the key Federal players in the funding and encouragement of research in the area of health services research.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Snapshot of AHRQ home page. Click to visit the site. Close the open window to return to this page.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) (http://www.ahrq.gov/) works to improve the quality, appropriateness, and effectiveness of health care, and improve access to health services. One of its chief responsibilities is to develop and disseminate research-based information to medical practitioners, consumers and other health care purchasers.

The law that established AHCPR (P.L. 101-239) was passed in December 1989. The Agency opened its doors two years later on December 19, 1990. AHCPR's predecessor was the National Center for Health Services Research and Health Care Technology Assessment (NCHSR). Ten years later NCHSR was supplanted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in December 1999. (Additional historical information on AHRQ in Module 2).

AHRQ Research Funding

The agency funds research on key health care delivery and medical effectiveness issues through grants and contracts. Its in-house researchers and health care professionals conduct analyses on a range of policy issues and evaluate the risks and effects of specific health technologies. A very useful section on Funding Opportunities is linked from the left navigation bar. Research Findings are heavily promoted on the site and are very useful sources of recent research activities funded by the Agency.

AHRQ Publications

To access information on AHRQ's publications and products, including electronic versions of the Publications Catalog and links to other electronic resources, go to: http://www.ahrq.gov/news/pubsix.htm.

To locate specific publications, visit the AHRQ Electronic Publications page and search for the item you are interested in. A simple search form and an advanced search form are both available. Look for the Availability section in the record. Some of the publications are available in full-text online and others must be ordered through the AHRQ online ordering form. The order form comes up when you click on the "Click Here to Order Online" link.

AHRQ publications can be ordered several ways

  • call the AHRQ Clearinghouse toll-free at 800-358-9295 (outside the United States please call 703-437-2078)
  • send an E-mail message to: ahrqpubs@ahrq.gov  or
  • mail a written request to: AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907-8547 (Note: it may take up to 6 weeks for delivery via U.S. mail).

Evidence-Based Practice Centers (EPCs)

Beginning in 1997, the then Agency for Health Care Policy and Research began sponsoring 12 Evidence-Based Practice Centers (EPCs) to aid clinicians, health plans and health insurance purchasing groups, States, and others develop quality improvement strategies by rigorously reviewing and synthesizing the scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of health care services and technologies. The number of EPCs has grown to 13.

The reports that are written by the EPCs are used by "Federal and State agencies, private sector professional societies, health delivery systems, providers, payers, and others committed to evidence-based health care."

National Guideline Clearinghouse

Snapshot of the National Guideline Clearinghouse. This image opens in a new window. Close the window to return here.AHRQ partnered with the medical community and other private sector organizations to develop a national online database of existing clinical practice guidelines. The database, called the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) (http://www.guideline.gov/) includes access information, summaries of the guidelines, full text when available, and annotations that will permit users to compare the process by which each guideline was developed and the extent to which recommendations of guidelines on the same topic differ.

Other areas of research include: consumer choice and consumer health; clinical improvement; health care cost, financing, and access; health information technology; health care organization and delivery including health plans; quality measurement and improvement; and technology.

Notification Services

AHRQ

For anyone interested in new publications sign up for the AHRQ Research Activities. Research Activities is free. To subscribe, fill out the AHRQ Publications Order Form or call AHRQ's Clearinghouse at 800-358-9295; for callers outside of the United States only, the number is 703-437-2078.

Their most recent publications catalog is available online.

National Guideline Clearinghouse

To receive updates through the NGC Update Service, or to manage your subscriptions, visit the Subscription Management page.

Discussion Questions

  1. How helpful in your work is having access to the National Guideline Clearinghouse? Is it something you refer to when you work with clinicians? With researchers? With the public?
  2. AHRQ has had a short but distinguished career of funding innovative health services research. Describe some of the research that AHRQ has funded. How has this research changed the provision of health care? Changed access to health services research?
  3. AHRQ is responsible for collecting the data and producing the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a public use file that provides information collected on a nationally representative sample of the civilian non-institutionalized population of the United States for each calendar year. Read up on MEPS and decide how important this resource is. Then discuss the implications of such a dataset. Does the data collected by AHRQ compliment the data collected by NCHS? Is there overlap? Why should you care about this dataset?
  4. When you look at the MEPS site, can you find related publications? What kinds?
  5. How helpful is the AHRQ's site map for locating information by population group? by data initiative? by topic?
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