Family physicians are dedicated to delivering care that is safe, effective, patient centered, timely, efficient, and equitable. However, primary care clinicians face challenges that create barriers to providing high-quality care.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recognizes that supporting the nation's primary care health system is foundational to achieving high-quality health care. To that end, the agency invests in innovative primary care research to generate new knowledge, synthesize existing evidence that is applicable to the primary care setting, create tools for improving primary care practice, and generate data and measures to track and improve performance in primary care. Table 1 provides examples of AHRQ tools and resources that are available.
|Effective Health Care Program*
|Easy-to-read summaries of comparative effectiveness reviews and research reports; selected summaries are published in American Family Physician (https://www.aafp.org/afp/ahrq)
|Decision aids on topics such as lung cancer screening (with low-dose computed tomography), nonsurgical treatment options for female urinary incontinence, and prostate cancer screening
|Electronic Preventive Services Selector
|Mobile app and online tool that identifies relevant U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations
|Provides tailored guidance based on patient information that is entered into the interface, such as gender and age
|Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit
|Aimed at helping primary care health professionals increase patient understanding of health information and support patients of all health literacy levels
|Companion guide and crosswalk that show how implementing health literacy tools can help meet standards for patient-centered medical home certification
|National Guideline Clearinghouse†
|Searchable database that provides comparative, detailed, objective information on clinical practice guidelines
|Collection of references, guides, posters, and other resources designed to support implementation of SHARE, a five-step process for shared decision making
The AHRQ is engaged in the dissemination and widespread implementation of what works in primary care. The agency's main point of contact with the primary care community is the National Center for Excellence in Primary Care Research (NCEPCR). This center communicates evidence derived from research that is important to primary care to researchers, primary care professionals, health care decision makers, patients, and families, and conveys how it can be used to improve health and primary health care.
The NCEPCR website (https://www.ahrq.gov/ncepcr) offers a variety of tools and resources designed to address some of the daily challenges facing primary care clinicians. These tools and resources can be used in patient care and to support practice-improvement efforts. They provide ready access to essential evidence for clinical practice, as well as information on a wide range of topics to support care delivery, such as effective models of care (e.g., patient-centered medical home), patient- and family-centered care, shared decision making, quality improvement, and health information technology, including clinical decision support. Some of these resources are straightforward, searchable databases that quickly inform clinicians regarding a specific issue or concern (e.g., National Guideline Clearing-house) or can be used for patient education (e.g., summaries from the Effective Health Care Program). Others provide guidance on improving the care of patients who are at risk of suboptimal outcomes (e.g., health literacy toolkit). There are a number of resources that can be used in real time during a patient visit (e.g., the Electronic Preventive Services Selector, which aids clinicians in selecting patient-tailored preventive services). Complete courses that help learners develop competencies in important aspects of primary care (e.g., SHARE [seek, help, assess, reach, evaluate] curriculum) are also available. All of these tools are free.
The AHRQ's NCEPCR is interested in getting your feedback on these tools. We would like to learn more about your needs and hear about other tools and resources that might be helpful for your practice. Please send us your thoughts at NCEPCR@ahrq.hhs.gov.