AHRQ 2.0: Strategies for Creating Value in the Digital Age
By Gopal Khanna, M.B.A.
Health care is constantly evolving. The business of improving people’s health has spawned what sometimes feels like an infinite stream of new technologies, ground-breaking treatments, and innovative models of care.
Along with these advancements has come an ever-growing repository of information: data.
The potential of this information to improve the Nation’s health cannot be overstated. I believe passionately that the opportunities for using data from multiple sources to rethink and continuously improve our approach to patient care are nearly infinite. The time to seize these opportunities is now.
I’ve been working for weeks with AHRQ staff, health system leaders, researchers, and other stakeholders to formulate strategies that would achieve these goals. The result is a four-part vision designed to affirm the Agency as a leader in burgeoning efforts in the health services research space to improve the safety and quality of patient care through increased use of data.
In future blog posts I will address each of these four elements in detail. But for now, allow me to outline my vision:
Developing a platform to create data-informed insights. AHRQ already produces two powerful data sets that are frequently used by health care decision makers: Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). By linking them with Federal, State, and private data sets and applying AHRQ’s talents in data analysis, AHRQ will produce powerful tools to support evidence-informed policy making. I call this a data-driven digital enterprise platform. While building this won’t be easy, it is necessary. I know we can do this. AHRQ researchers recently drew on Agency data to explore how previous hurricane-related spikes in hospital care might inform response to current or future disasters. Such predictive analytics have great promise to improve decision-making both within and outside of government.
Catalyzing the evolution of learning health systems. Health care delivery organizations are rich with data and data are the fuel that transforms any health care delivery organization into a learning health system. In learning health systems, internal clinical data are systematically collected and analyzed (along with appropriate external data) to inform improvements in clinical practice. The ongoing use of data is an essential element of a health system’s efforts to continuously learn and improve. But without leadership, an engaged workforce, and engaged patients and families, delivery systems won’t reach their potential. AHRQ will guide health care delivery systems to embrace the power of their own data and their people. One early step will be developing the business case that translates our vision for the health care C-suite.
Engaging health care operation leaders in health services research. The challenges of transferring research findings into practice are well known. But what I’ve learned from my time in the private sector, State government, and now in Federal government, is the missing piece is often engagement and participation from operational leadership. We must recognize that CEOs and other members of the C-suite are some of the most important customers of health services research. If these organizational leaders join clinical and research teams in efforts to collect and implement data to improve care, the timeline will shrink between research advances and better patient outcomes. I want AHRQ to engage health care operation leaders in research to improve safety and quality, and embed those results in how care is provided—all while continuing to engage patients as partners in this critical process.
Empowering 360º person-centered care. Data must not move health care away from people, it must put individuals in the center of their care. I envision a health care delivery system that lives within a larger ecosystem of data—a system that provides a “whole-person,” or 360-degree view of patients. AHRQ can bring Federal, State, and local partners to the table with health care delivery organizations, human service delivery organizations, community organizations, and patients, families, and caregivers to develop new ways of integrating health and human services. This requires thinking beyond the walls of the traditional health care delivery system and in so doing will strengthen the ability of health care professionals to care for those they serve.
These ideas are rooted in AHRQ’s history of innovation and learning. They all continue our work in ensuring Americans receive high-quality, safe health care. In addition, as mentioned, these ideas have not been developed in a vacuum. They are the product of very thoughtful, deliberative thinking from impressive minds both inside and outside the Agency.
As a result, I’m convinced that promising days are ahead for AHRQ through our efforts to increase the use of data and improve patient care for all Americans in the digital age in which we live. Further, these ideas will provide us with opportunities to accelerate AHRQ’s activities and take the lead in continuously creating better quality, safety, and value for all.
In upcoming weeks, I’ll be to using this space to share more about how we will leverage AHRQ’s unique core competencies to build AHRQ 2.0 . Stay tuned!