AHRQ's Andrew Bindman: Much healthcare research ahead

Doctor and nurses wheeling patient in gurney through hospital corridor

Despite a complex political environment, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is making strides to perform research relevant to clinical care, according to Director Andrew Bindman.

“Research is not done for just research sake, but with an eye toward how it can be moved into the hands of clinicians and healthcare organizations and then scaled in order to have a major impact” he says in a recent interview with Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, posted to Patient Safety Network. "There has been a tremendous building of bridges between the research and action to what matters to patients and doctors and nurses."

Bindman points to important work on patient safety within the agency, but notes that there is much more work to be done. For example, he says, while AHRQ created a national measurement strategy for hospital-acquired conditions, it needs to expand that effort to apply to nursing homes and ambulatory care.

What's more, while AHRQ has a robust research portfolio on health IT, it still must focus on areas such as how technology can fulfill its promise without detracting from patient-provider interactions, according to Bindman. Beyond better understanding of how electronic health record data can be used at the point of care, key questions remain about how that data can be better mined to generate overall knowledge while maintaining patient privacy, he says.

Payment incentives sometimes create that sense of “just racing on the hamster wheel,” he says of physician burnout related to health IT. Payment models must encourage new models of care, such as greater use of telehealth.

“In the area that I know best, primary care, substantial questions must be asked about whether we have adequate staffing to perform the responsibilities that are being asked of us now,” Bindman says.

Throw in genomics and patients with apps and sensors, and research must inform realistic expectations about the technology and how the doctor’s job matches up, he says.