The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is a U.S. government agency that functions as a part of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to support research to help improve the quality of health care.
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The AHRQ uses a system of quality indicators to determine the standards of quality health care and if a particular provider is meeting those standards. These indicators are divided into four subcategories that each monitor a different aspect of health care quality.
- Prevention Quality Indicator (PQI): This is used to identify hospital admissions that could have been avoided through higher quality outpatient care. This is used primarily concerning patients who experience return visits.
- In-patient Quality Indicator (IQI): This concerns the quality of patient care inside a hospital. Numbers studied reflect patient mortality rates in a given hospital caused by lack of care or surgical procedures.
- Patient Safety Indicators (PSI): These concern the quality of care of patients in a hospital, but unlike IQIs, they deal specifically mortalities related to avoidable complications, such as those caused by outdated hospital machinery.
- Pediatric Quality Indicators: These are concerned with many of the same aspects as previously mentioned, but concerning the pediatric population.
Hospital performance results based on these quality indicators are reported on an HHS site called Hospital Compare and are published in an annual AHRQ survey. However, as a research organization, the AHRQ lacks the authority to penalize organizations who receive low marks for the quality indicators.
In addition to its quality indicators, the AHRQ publishes the results of its research as reports, toolkits or other resources for health care providers. One AHRQ project, for example, is a toolkit that helps standardize health information exchange and the storage of personal health information The AHRQ’s document helps provide a more streamlined approach to health information technology data storage and exchange. Another AHRQ guide gives providers advice on how to create software and other systems geared toward adult patients with limited literacy to ensure that they receive proper health care.