Tag Archives: ahrq

What Trump’s budget proposal may mean for health research agency

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal includes rolling a relatively obscure agency that conducts health care research into the National Institutes of Health, and cutting the NIH budget by $5.8 billion.

That small agency – the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ (pronounced “arc“)  – could be cut entirely or see its mission shrink drastically under the president’s plan. Reducing or eliminating AHRQ would have a significant effect on health system research and health IT adoption in communities across the country. Reporters have a number of ways to see how changes to AHRQ could affect health services in their region. Continue reading

AHRQ details spending on health care

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Among recent releases from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, its data on who’s spending what on health care stands out as particularly useful to a broad audience. It has already inspired posts, graphics and stories around the web, and even journalists who don’t plan to use the data directly can get useful context from these secondary pieces.

Thanks are due to AHCJ member Eileen Beal, a Cleveland-based independent journalist, and MedCity News’ Veronica Combs for pointing us to a handy guide to the AHRQ data.

American Medical News’ Doug Trapp uses the AHRQ data to create a profile of America’s heaviest health care consumers. For the record, he reports that they’d most likely be white, female and privately insured.

They are the costliest 1% of patients in the U.S. Caring for them accounts for more than 20% of what the nation spends on all of its health care. In contrast, the least costly half of all patients are associated with only 3% of total health spending, according to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analysis of spending data from 2008 and 2009 released in January.

Finally, we have the AHRQ statistical brief itself. It’s quite accessible, and reporters will find its references section to be a hyperlinked gold mine of handy numbers and research reports.

Find health data at Childstats.gov, a clearinghouse for kid numbers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Time to add another link to your “federal data clearinghouses” folder, if you haven’t already. Childstats.gov, published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, synthesizes data from the CDC, NCHS, National Children’s Survey, AHRQ, Census and other specialized programs.

kidsPhoto by nasa hq photo via Flickr

The site is anchored by its annual report, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” and the easy-to-navigate nature of its databases seems to have already inspired some discussion on Twitter, particularly in relation to child homelessness.

Many of the data tools are simply links to general surveys (like AHRQ’s National Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project) that just happen to contain child-related information, but there are some more specifically relevant data sources, the best of which I’ve listed below.

International cooperative to share health data

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Writing that “the importance of data sharing in advancing health is becoming increasingly widely recognised,” 17 major public health players entities, from the CDC and AHRQ to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the World Bank, have banded together to form a sort of data cooperative around the Wellcome Trust and the Hewlett foundation. In a Lancet commentary announcing the initiative, Wellcome director Mark Walport and Hewlett president Paul Brest write that, while fields such as genetics and molecular biology, a mature data-sharing system has sped up discoveries and increased efficiency, public health is lagging behind.

Much of the infrastructures, technical standards, and incentives that are needed to support data sharing are lacking, and these data can hold particular sensitivities. And some researchers are reluctant to share data. Too often, data are treated as the private property of investigators who aim to maximise their publication record at the expense of the widest possible use of the data. This situation threatens to limit both the progress of this research and its application for public health benefit.

Each organization will work within its own structure and their initial goals include the creation of data standards to facilitate sharing as well as increasing the prestige of creating public data sets. They acknowledge there will be some bumps along the way, but call on other organizations to join the initiative and to pursue the long-term goal of the widespread, fair and privacy-respecting sharing of public health data.

Video, presentations from comparative effectiveness conference available online

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Earlier this month, ECRI’s 17th annual conference tackled the thorniest detail of comparative effectiveness research, namely that it’s rarely a simple matter of A > B. Groups and individuals respond differently.

With a theme of “Comparative Effectiveness and Personalized Medicine,” the nonprofit and its partners at NIH and Health Affairs, among others, sought to better understand how big research ideas will interface with the person-by-person decisions through which such work will ultimately be implemented.

The conference has a detailed postmortem online, including two days of video (Fair warning: Together, they’re a good 700+ minutes of conference) and slides from a number of the presentations. I strongly recommend using the conference schedule listed on the slides page as a rough guide to finding the most relevant bits of video.

In case you’re looking for a place to start, here are two of the most relevant presentations:

The online Q and A is also interesting, though there are only a handful of answers up at present. The most relevant one so far comes from Vivian Coates (Vice President, Information Services and Health Technology Assessment, ECRI Institute), in response to a query about a central listing of comparative effectiveness projects.

The CER inventory contract was awarded to the Lewin Group Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) in June, 2010. Over the 27 month period of the contract, Lewin will design, build and launch a web-based inventory that catalogs CER outputs and activity, including research studies, relevant research methods, training of researchers, data infrastructure and approaches for dissemination and translation of comparative effectiveness research to health care providers and patients.

Drugs send more of the 45-plus crowd to hospitals

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

At a time when overall prescription drug use is climbing across the board, the AHRQ reports that the number of medication- and drug-related hospital visits for Americans over the age of 45 doubled between 1997 and 2008. Abuse is also on the rise in that age group, and the cost burden for the increase has fallen heavily upon Medicare and Medicaid. The numbers come from the AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a wonderfully deep well of cost-related statistics from 2008.

A few numbers from the release:

Hospital admissions among those 45 years and older were driven by growth in discharges for three types of medication and drug-related conditions – drug-induced delirium; “poisoning” or overdose by codeine, meperidine and other opiate-based pain medicines; and withdrawal from narcotic or non-narcotic drugs.

Admissions for all medication and drug-related conditions grew by 117 percent – from 30,100 to 65,400 – for 45- to 64-year-olds between 1997 and 2008. The rate of admissions for people ages 65 to 84 closely followed, growing by 96 percent, and for people ages 85 and older, the rate grew by 87 percent. By comparison, the number of hospital admissions for these conditions among adults ages 18 to 44 declined slightly by 11 percent.

Beyond the headline-making news involving drugs, AHRQ’s report includes data on other types of medical conditions treated in hospitals, surgical procedures and costs in 2008.