AHRQ Works for Public Health
During National Public Health Week, April 3–9, AHRQ was proud to join those saluting public health professionals who help people live healthier lives. Their efforts are vital to improving the quality and safety of the Nation’s health care.
As the Nation’s lead agency for protecting patient safety and improving health care quality, AHRQ works directly with clinicians to support their efforts to prevent patient harm. We invest in evidence to make health care safer, create tools that doctors and nurses use to improve patient care, and generate data and measures to track and improve the U.S. health system.
AHRQ’s contributions in these areas are an essential part of ensuring the public’s good health and making sure patients receive high-quality care.
At some point in your life, you or someone you love will become a patient. All patients deserve the safest and highest quality health care, whether that care happens in a hospital, an ambulatory surgery center, a doctor’s office, or a long-term care facility. Making health care safer means patients heal faster, with fewer complications, and at a lower cost.
Here are some examples of how AHRQ makes a difference:
- The opioid epidemic is taking a hold of many communities across our Nation. According to AHRQ data, opioid-related hospital stays increased by 64 percent between 2005 and 2014. Rural communities are among the hardest hit areas. We are currently funding research to help rural primary care doctors make the best use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), an intervention shown to be effective for people with opioid addiction. AHRQ’s investments are aimed at helping clinicians overcome barriers to the use of MAT, such as limited training opportunities for prescribing physicians, negative perceptions about people with substance abuse disorders, negative expectations about the effectiveness of treatment, and lack of social support services in rural communities.
- Antibiotic resistance has emerged as a nationwide health threat. According to Federal estimates, antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause 2 million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. Hospitals and nursing homes need help in reducing bacteria outbreaks and determining when it’s necessary to treat them with antibiotics. Our recently released Nursing Home Antimicrobial Stewardship Guide includes customizable toolkits to help nursing homes improve their use of antibiotics. We are also funding grants on research that promotes appropriate antibiotic use, reduces transmission of drug-resistant bacteria, and prevents health-care associated infections in the first place. Every infection prevented is one less use of antibiotics.
- AHRQ is uniquely equipped to track and analyze health care data—an essential first step to identifying public health problems. Our Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) provides annual data on Americans’ health status, their use of medical services, insurance coverage, and expenses for care. AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), meanwhile is the Nation’s most comprehensive source of hospital data, including information on in-patient care, ambulatory care, and emergency department visits. In addition, our annual State Snapshots help State officials better understand the status of health care quality and disparities in their States. Taken together, these resources can help policymakers and public health advocates target areas of need and develop programs to improve the health of their constituents.
Public health challenges such as preventing harm in health care often require the commitment of many stakeholders who can reach those on the front lines of care. Our recent blog post co-authored with the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) echoed NPSF’s call to action that patient safety be recognized for what it is—a significant public health concern. AHRQ is committed to this effort.
While keeping patients from harm is a big undertaking, we strive every day to make sure doctors and nurses have the tools they need to do just that. Patient safety is a concern for all health professionals, and we’re proud to be united with them to confront the challenge as an important public health issue.
This article was originally published on AHRQ Views Blog and is republished here with permission.