This post was authored by Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The good news in the 2011 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report released Friday, April 20, by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is that there have been significant improvements in cardiac care, in areas including reduced hospital admissions for congestive heart failure and fewer hospital deaths due to heart attack.
Unfortunately, the less good news in the reports is that overall improvements in the quality of health care continue to progress at a slow rate – only 2.5 percent a year, and the majority of disparities based on race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other factors are either not improving or are heading in the wrong direction.
Working together we can overcome the challenges to future successes and improve the quality rates overall. Chief among the challenges is that health care providers are increasingly being asked to do more – and do it better – all while trying to make sure we guide our patients to the latest credible, evidence-based information and encouraging them to become more engaged with us in their own health and health care.
In our work to improve quality and access to care, AHRQ is building a much-needed resource of comparative clinical information on a variety of priority health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease. The work is being conducted by the Agency’s Effective Health Care Program, the first Federally mandated initiative to support patient-centered outcomes research. As part of this effort, AHRQ is establishing a national network of partners including ACC.
Patient-centered outcomes research, also known as comparative effectiveness research, takes a comprehensive look at the evidence, comparing the effectiveness and risks of various treatment options, and presenting bottom-line results to help you work with patients to answer the question, “What is the best treatment for this individual?”
Data in the quality and disparities reports show strides have been made in answering some of these questions in cardiac care. Along with advances involving congestive heart failure and hospital deaths, racial and ethnic disparities in cardiovascular care were less common than those in other conditions and, in fact, minorities often received better quality care than whites.
Through the Effective Health Care Program, AHRQ conducts systematic reviews of available research to compare the effectiveness, benefits, and potential risks of different treatment options: drugs, medical devices, tests, surgeries, or delivery methods. These evidence-based findings are synthesized into comprehensive reports and translated into plain-language clinician and patient summaries on topics such as effectiveness of self-monitored high blood pressure, combination therapy for high cholesterol, and ACEIs, ARBs, or DRI for high blood pressure. Continuing education credits and slide libraries on cardiovascular patient-centered outcomes research are also available. These resources are designed to encourage and support shared decision making between the patient and clinician, resulting in better care.
As an advocate for evidence-based research and informed decision-making, ACC has joined AHRQ’s national network of partners to share the Agency’s growing inventory of free research reports and tools to help clinicians educate patients about cardiovascular disease, and work with patients to make informed decisions about care. You can view these tools on the AHRQ Effective Health Care Program website, or order free copies of the summary guides, including the consumer guide AHRQ recently cobranded with ACC titled “Measuring Your Blood Pressure at Home: A Review of the Research for Adults” by calling 800–358–9295 and using code C-01.
Together we will increase awareness of patient-centered outcomes research and encourage patients to use this kind of research to help them make the best treatment decisions.
Please note that statements or opinions expressed herein reflect the views of the contributor, and do not reflect the official views of the ACCF, unless otherwise noted.