The Reality and Potential of Evidence-Based Medicine

January 12, 2005

Evidence-based medicine offers a win-win proposition: improve the quality and effectiveness of care while at the same time identifying opportunities to reduce waste of valuable health care resources. But what evidence should employers, health care providers and consumers pay attention to? And how should this information be disseminated to those who need it?

The answers to questions such as these are crucial to the success of several initiatives designed to trim health care costs. For instance, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program now offers several consumer-driven health care optionsto federal workers and retirees. Medicare beneficiaries will soon be able to choose from prescription drug coverage offered through traditional Medicare and in managed care plans. Policymakers are considering tax incentives for consumer-directed health plans in the private sector. Each initiative depends,in part, upon the ability of consumers to find, understand, and use good information to guide their choices. Yet,clinically validated measurement tools do not yet exist for many commonly performed interventions.

To help provide quality information, Congress recently added $15 million to the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) specifically to study the effectiveness, and the comparative effectiveness, of medical interventions, including prescription drugs.”Realizing the potential of the rapid advances in science relies on providing useful, current evidence when and where it is needed most – at the time of decision-making, whether by policy makers, clinicians, health care leaders or individuals,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “Advances in information and communications technology make the use of evidence feasible and practical, and will help close the gap between the best possible and actual care.”

How will AHRQ deploy the new $15 million? What will CMS and consumer groups do to educate Medicare beneficiaries with price and quality information on drug and managed care plans? What steps will HHS and Congress take to speed the development of a national health information technology system that works both for providers and the public?

To help address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the respected policy journal Health Affairs sponsored a January 12, 2005 briefing. The January/February 2005 issue of Health Affairs, devoted to the issue of evidence-based medicine, was available at the briefing. Panelists were: Mark McClellan, administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; David Brailer, HHS national coordinator for health information technology; Gail Shearer, director of health policy analysis at Consumers Union, and Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. John Iglehart of Health Affairs made briefremarks and Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated the discussion.


Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

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Gail Shearer Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

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