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AHRQ Pledges $1M to Fund Clinical Decision Support Interoperability


Silos prevent scientific advancements from flowing into the clinic quickly, the agency says.

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The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is making up to $1 million in grant money available to help researchers develop better ways to improve shareability and interoperability among clinical decision support (CDS) products.

AHRQ announced the new funding opportunity last month.

>> READ: Reinventing Clinical Decision Support

The agency said healthcare organizations tend to input clinical practice guidelines and evidence-based recommendations into their CDS systems in a “siloed fashion.” As a result, they lose the opportunity to learn from other health systems and build on collective experience. AHRQ wants to fix that by sparking research to develop best practices that bolster sharing.

Ed Lomotan, MD, FAAP, medical officer and chief of clinical informatics at AHRQ, and Shafa Al-Showk, MPH, CHES, an AHRQ health scientist, told Healthcare Analytics News™ that the agency has long been supportive of CDS. A decade ago, AHRQ published research into barriers and strategies to make CDS more replicable across multiple sites.

“Since then, new health IT standards, such as HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and Clinical Quality Language (CQL), have emerged, which make shareable and interoperable CDS more possible,” Lomotan and Al-Showk said in an email. “AHRQ’s new funding announcement is intended to build on those advancements. It’s part of an initiative we launched in 2016 that aims to make CDS more shareable, standards-based, and publicly available.”

One of the goals of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research CDS Initiative is to engage stakeholders, including patients, health systems, researchers, and vendors around the goal of improving CDS. Toward that end, the agency awarded funding to the Research Triangle Institute to develop a patient-centered CDS learning network.

To build a prototype infrastructure for developing and sharing CDS, the AHRQ is working with MITRE Corp., which has developed an online repository called CDS Connect, a tool that the AHRQ will use to post data produced by funding recipients.

The new funding opportunity supports a goal to look into ways CDS can support the disseminating and implementing evidence into clinical practice. The agency is casting a wide net, opening up the funding to for-profit companies, in addition to academic institutions and nonprofits. AHRQ wants the end products to be publicly available and thus easy to disseminate broadly.

Lomotan and Al-Showk said the research should also help level the playing field for hospitals that hope to incorporate the latest research.

“Such advancements would be particularly valuable to organizations whose limited resources leave them unable to start from scratch when developing CDS on their own,” they said. “Building on the successful work of others represents a valuable opportunity to advance CDS.”

Ultimately, Lomotan and Al-Showk said the research will help patients to benefit from scientific advances more quickly.

“Research has told us that it takes an average of 17 years for evidence about new and better ways to provide care to make its way into clinical practice,” they said. “We hope this becomes much faster through the CDS infrastructure and interoperable resources that AHRQ, our grantees, and our federal partners are building together.”

A full overview of the grant funding requirements can be read on the AHRQ website. Applications will be accepted beginning in late August.

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