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HHS Federal Program Inventory

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

Budget Authority (in millions of dollars)

 FY 2012FY 2013FY 2014
Discretionary Program Level369371334


7.1    Research on Health Costs, Quality and Outcomes

The AHRQ health services research mission is pursued by six research portfolios within HCQO: 

  1. Patient-Centered Health Research/Effective Health Care:   Patient-centered health research improves health care quality by providing patients and physicians with state-of-the-science information on which medical treatments work best for a given condition.  This portfolio conducts and supports patient-centered health research in response to Section 1013 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.  In addition, it builds research infrastructure and capacity, allowing future studies to address questions where data are currently not sufficient to provide guidance about competing alternatives and to improve the efficiency with which the research infrastructure is able to respond to pressing health care questions. 
  2. Prevention/Care Management Research:   Prevention/Care Management research focuses on improving the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of the delivery of evidence-based preventive services and chronic care management in ambulatory care settings. This portfolio works to improve the delivery of primary care services to meet the needs of the American population for high-quality, safe, effective, and efficient clinical prevention and chronic disease care.  To accomplish this work, the Prevention/Care Management Portfolio supports the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other health services and behavioral research.  In addition, this portfolio facilitates the translation of evidence into effective primary care practice and maximizes the investment of federal resources through a commitment to collaborative partnerships with federal partners and other stakeholders.
  3. Value Research:    Value research focuses on finding a way to achieve greater value in health care – reducing unnecessary costs and waste while maintaining or improving quality.  This portfolio produces the measures, data, tools, evidence and strategies that health care organizations, systems, insurers, purchasers, and policymakers need to improve the value, affordability and transparency of health care.
  4. Health Information Technology Research:  Health IT research develops and synthesizes the best evidence on how health IT can improve the quality of American health care, disseminates that evidence, and develops evidence-based tools for adoption and meaningful use of health IT.  AHRQ’s health IT research builds the evidence to improve the quality, safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of the health care system. 
  5. Patient Safety Research:  AHRQ’s patient safety research is aimed at identifying risks and hazards that lead to medical errors and finding ways to prevent patient injury associated with delivery of health care.  This is accomplished by funding health services research on patient safety risks and harms, , medical liability, and Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs), and creating common standards for Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs).  Projects within the program seek to inform multiple stakeholders including health care organizations, providers, policymakers, researchers, patients and others; disseminate information and implement initiatives to enhance patient safety and quality; establish cultures in healthcare organizations that support patient safety; and maintain vigilance through adverse event reporting and surveillance in order to prevent patient harm. 
  6. Research Innovations:   The activities in this portfolio provide the core infrastructure used by the other portfolios to do their work.  Research Innovations conducts investigator-initiated and targeted research that focus on health services research in the areas of quality, effectiveness and efficiency.  Creation of new knowledge is critical to AHRQ’s ability to answer questions related to improving the quality of health care.  This portfolio also supports measurement and data collection activities, dissemination and translation of research, and other health services research conducted through research contracts and IAAs. 
  • Supported Strategic Goal:  Strengthen health care
  • Supported Strategic Objective:  Improve health care quality and patient safety

7.2    Medical Expenditure Panel Survey

The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), first funded in 1995, is the only national source for comprehensive annual data on how Americans use and pay for medical care. The survey collects detailed information from families on access, use, expenses, insurance coverage and quality.  Data are disseminated to the public through printed and Web-based tabulations, microdata files and research reports/journal articles.  Data from the MEPS have become a linchpin for public and private economic models projecting health care expenditures and utilization.  These data are essential for the evaluation of health reform policies and analyzing the effect of tax code changes on health expenditures and tax revenue. Recently released national and state level data from MEPS on employer sponsored health offers and premiums is being used to determine tax credits for small employers providing coverage to their employees as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The MEPS is designed to provide annual estimates at the national level of the health care utilization, expenditures, sources of payment and health insurance coverage of the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population.  In addition to collecting data that support annual estimates for a variety of measures related to health insurance coverage, healthcare use and expenditures, MEPS provides estimates of measures related to health status, demographic characteristics, employment, access to health care and health care quality.  The survey also supports estimates for individuals, families and population subgroups of interest.

  • Supported Strategic Goal:  Strengthen health care
  • Supported Strategic Objective:  Make coverage more secure for those who have insurance and extend affordable coverage to the uninsured

7.3    AHRQ Program Support

Program support activities for AHRQ include operational and intramural support costs such as salaries and benefits, rent, supplies, travel, transportation, communications, printing and other reproduction costs, contractual services, taps and assessments, supplies, equipment, and furniture.  Most AHRQ staff divide their time between multiple portfolios, which is why AHRQ’s staff and overhead costs are shown centralized in Program Support, instead of within the relevant research portfolio or MEPS. 

  • Supported Strategic Goal:  Strengthen the nation’s health and human service infrastructure and workforce
  • Supported Strategic Objective:  Invest in the HHS workforce to meet America’s health and human service needs today and tomorrow

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