As mentioned in yesterday's post, comparative effectiveness (CE) has become a an important issue in the healthcare reform discussions. This is because it provides a method to evaluate the value of treatments and procedures. As clinicians evaluate CE information, they can make better choices and possibly make care more efficient. CE does not tell doctors what to do, it just gives them better information.
This is a theme that it is is important to remember. CE is a process that has value if it leads to better decisions. Better decisions (by both doctors and patients) lead to better health. So, the question is: Do we have a system of CE research that flows through to better decisions. The federal government does have such a program, in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Take a look at the following statement by Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who is the Director of AHRQ. She describes the approach AHRQ has taken to pursue a CE research agenda.
Some people have questioned whether the federal government, including AHRQ and the NIH, is doing a good job creating and managing a CE research program. Both last year and again this year, members of Congress have proposed new laws that would change how federal funding for CE research would be managed. Take a look at this blog entry for a discussion of these proposals.
If you would like a more detailed discussion of the research infrastructure for CE, the American Colleg of Physicians put out a position paper last year.