More Research on Effective Care Needed If Health Reform Passes

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , September 15, 2009

If Congress passes one of the many healthcare proposals pending on Capitol Hill, public and private organizations will have to conduct more research to back it up, according to speakers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) session Monday on forging a path to achieving high-quality, affordable care.

Numerous examples exist of ineffective care, said Karen Davis, PhD, president of The Commonwealth Fund. To move away from poor or ineffective care, it's important to think about how to reward results for improving that care. "We need to reward by paying the best results for patients and we need to reward proper use of resources," she said.

This could be achieved in several ways. First, one way is through payment reform that would reward quality through the use of bundled payments for the care of patients.

Also, it will be important to look at the adoption of plans—such as accountable care organizations—in which plans would be accountable for delivering successful, coordinated care. In addition, transitions in care will need to be closely examined as patients leave hospitals—making sure to reduce complications by coordinating between the hospital and primary care practice, and to prevent readmission.

David Blumenthal, MD, the national coordinator for health information technology, said more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of health information technology while it is being implemented under the current stimulus measures.

For the most part, health IT research has been limited. More documented research could help providers put their systems into practice—using it more effectively.

Public and private organizations have studied ways, for instance, to look at the value of electronic health records (EHR) or health IT systems at the individual hospital, practice, or healthcare network level, he said.

However, more research is needed to see what can be done in multiple settings to promote the use of EHRs and obtain the best value from them and to "gain the greatest value" for their health IT investments, he added.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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