Frequently Asked Questions

Check to find the answers to your questions about the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) programs and activities. You can search by category or key words. You can also send us your questions or website feedback here. We will respond to your requests based on the best available scientific evidence and research from our Agency.

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The U.S. Health Information Knowledgebase (USHIK) is populated with the data elements and information models of Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) and other healthcare organizations, in such a way that public and private organizations can harmonize information formats with existing and emerging healthcare standards.

USHIK also contains data element information for Government initiatives that support the use and implementation of data standards such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Consolidated Health Informatics (CHI) initiative, and the Health Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP). Health IT developers can use the site to determine similarities and differences for metadata definitions when coding a system to comply with Federal requirements.

Go to the USHIK website.

AHRQ's health IT initiative is part of the Nation's strategy to put information technology to work in health care. By developing secure and private electronic health records for most Americans and making health information available electronically when and where it is needed, health IT can improve the quality of care, even as it makes health care more cost-effective.

Since 2004, AHRQ has invested more than $260 million in contracts and grants to over 150 communities, hospitals, providers, and health care systems in 48 States to promote access to and encourage the adoption of health IT. These projects constitute a real-world laboratory for examining health IT at work.

To learn more, go to AHRQ's Health Information Technology website at: https://healthit.ahrq.gov.

If you have additional questions about health information technology (IT), visit the National Resource Center Contact page.

The National Resource Center for Health Information Technology was established to encourage adoption of Health IT by sharing the findings and lessons from the real-world laboratory. By disseminating new knowledge, providing technical assistance, and serving as a repository for best practices, the National Resource Center can help providers explore the adoption and use of Health IT to improve patient safety and quality of care.

The National Resource Center provides experience-based information about planning and implementing Health IT projects, and about the value added by Health IT capabilities. Providers who want to implement Health IT can learn practical solutions for overcoming barriers, including lessons from the experiences of small medical practices and hospitals, as well as long-term care facilities and home health agencies. The National Resource Center also serves as a sounding board for grantees and others to share their experiences.

The National Resource Center is online at https://healthit.ahrq.gov.

Health IT is "health information technology"—the use of computers and computer programs to store, protect, retrieve, and transfer clinical, administrative, and financial information electronically within health care settings. Key elements of Health IT include:

  • Electronic health records for patients, in place of paper records.
  • Secure electronic networks to deliver up-to-date records whenever and wherever the patient or clinician may need them.
  • Electronic transmittal of medical test results to speed and streamline processing of those results by health care providers.
  • Confidential access for consumers to their own personal health information online, as well as reliable Web-based health information for consumers.
  • Electronic—and more efficient—communication between patients and health care providers, and among different providers.
  • Electronic prescribing of medications, treatments, and tests, to help avoid medical errors.
  • Decision support systems to provide clinicians with up-to-the-minute information on best practices and treatment options.
  • Electronic handheld devices to make information available at the point of care.

The electronic health record (EHR) can make complete medical information about a patient available to the clinician at the point of care, without the patient having to fill out unnecessary forms or remember the details of his or her medical history. Typically, the EHR would include information on the patient's medication and immunization history, laboratory results, radiographs, family history, and other medical history.

The EHR will play a key role in improving care for people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, who frequently see multiple providers, including specialists. An EHR would make important information about patients available to all their clinicians, so that clinicians can coordinate care without duplicative or conflicting actions.

Ultimately, the EHR will allow clinicians to spend more time caring for their patients, instead of conducting lengthy and sometimes frustrating searches for the information they need to provide good care. In a fully networked system, a patient's record would be immediately available in an emergency, no matter where the emergency occurs.

AHRQ's Health IT initiative funds projects that cover a wide range of issues, including the following:

  • Examination of Health IT effectiveness in various types of information exchange, including medical referrals, transferring radiology and other test results, and information sharing among care teams.
  • Impact of e-prescribing for different age groups and different medical conditions.
  • Use of Health IT systems for patient safety improvement, providing for "blame-free" reporting of adverse events and close calls.
  • Impact of Health IT on clinician workflow.
  • Health IT applications for chronic diseases, especially diabetes and asthma.
  • Demonstration of a patient-centered wellness application.
  • Effectiveness of Health IT in the emergency setting.
  • Health IT use in nursing homes, including the impact of clinical decision support.
  • Effectiveness of various applications of telemedicine, including distance management of cancer and chronic conditions.
  • Assessing incremental introduction of Health IT capabilities.
  • Effectiveness of Health IT in monitoring the quality of care delivered in specific types of facilities.
  • Health IT applications that provide clinical decision support.
  • Impact of sharing access to electronic medical records with patients.
  • Impact of Health IT on the continuum of care for patients as they are discharged from intensive care and when they return to the community.
  • Use of Health IT systems in creating an evidence base for treatment of particular conditions.

More information on funded projects is available on the Health IT site.

Prevention and Chronic Care encompasses a set of tools and resources for health care systems and clinicians, office/clinic staff, and patients. These tools and resources help doctors and other health care providers to determine which services should be offered to patients. The resources also provide guidance for establishing an office system to facilitate the delivery of preventive care, and they make it easier for patients to understand and keep track of their preventive care.

ePSS-the Electronic Preventive Services Selector-is a quick, hands-on tool designed to help primary care clinicians identify and offer the screening, counseling, and preventive medication services that are appropriate for their patients. The ePSS is based on the current, evidence-based recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and can be searched by specific patient characteristics, such as age, sex, and selected behavioral risk factors. Available both as a Web-based selector and as a mobile application, the ePSS brings the prevention information clinicians need-recommendations, clinical considerations, and selected practice tools-to the point of care.

Go to ePSS at: https://epss.ahrq.gov.

The ePSS application database for both the Web and mobile applications is kept current with the latest U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations. The recommendations data are managed and updated periodically by the USPSTF staff.

For the mobile application, users can register for ePSS database update alerts. If registered, users will receive email notifications of system and data updates for the ePSS mobile application.



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