HHS agency announces patient-reported outcome-focused competition

By Dave Muoio
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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) at HHS announced that will be conducting a challenge competition this fall focused on developing new tools focused on patient-reported outcome (PRO) data. Specifically, the agency hopes to find user-friendly tools that will better enable collection of the data, as well as its integration into EHRs or other health IT products.

“The patient's perspective is central to healthcare decisions affecting prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and long-term care,” Gopal Khanna, director of the AHRQ, wrote in the notice. “[PROs] critically inform patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and can inform clinical management of individuals, shared decision making, patient self-management support, care planning, goal setting and goal attainment.”

Standard clinician assessments can be bolstered by PROs, Khanna continued, but standardized tools to collect these additional perspectives “in a way that is meaningful and useful to both patients and clinicians in primary care and ambulatory settings” are scarce. Some EHRs and other similar technologies are capable of capturing PRO data, but such practices are not common in routine care and, due to a lack of standardized collection and integration, cannot be easily shared across health systems for research, quality improvement, or other purposes.

“To fill these gaps, AHRQ intends to support the development of user-friendly, PRO-collection tools that utilize health IT standards, including application programming interfaces (APIs) to collect physical function data in ambulatory care settings (including primary care),” Khanna wrote. “Data element and data capture standards would allow for PRO assessments to be conducted and easily shared regardless of what EHR or health IT solution is being used. It would also allow for consistency in interpretation, and clarify the meaning of results for patient-provider communication and shared decision-making.”

To do so, the AHRQ will be conducting a multi-phase challenge competition this fall, in which a panel of judges will choose the most promising solutions to continue on through the contest. Participating developers will be asked to create tools that follow provided specifications and enable patients to share their physical function data with clinicians and researchers.

While a dedicated webpage, a Federal Register Notice, and prizes are promised, an administrator at the AHRQ told MobiHealthNews that additional details of the competition — such as which specific PROs may be used — have not been determined as of now. Another representative of the agency also noted that the AHRQ has also released funding opportunities focused on collecting and using PROs within health IT strategies, as well as scaling and spreading those models that are incorporating these data.