This goal is achieved by conducting and supporting comparative effectiveness research. The Department of Health and Human Services uses the definition of comparative effectiveness research as set forth by the Federal Coordinating Council for CER:
Comparative effectiveness research is the conduct and synthesis of systematic research comparing different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat and monitor health conditions. The purpose of this research is to inform patients, providers, and decision-makers, responding to their expressed needs, about which interventions are most effective for which patients under specific circumstances. To provide this information, comparative effectiveness research must assess a comprehensive array of health-related outcomes for diverse patient populations. Defined interventions compared may include medications, procedures, medical and assistive devices and technologies, behavioral change strategies, and delivery system interventions. This research necessitates the development, expansion, and use of a variety of data sources and methods to assess comparative effectiveness.
Systematic research methods can include randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, observational cohort analyses, and other new and emerging methodologies. Comparative effectiveness studies may compare similar treatments, such as competing drugs, or analyze very different approaches, such as surgery and drug therapy. Evaluation of treatments includes any potential medical intervention under consideration, whether prognostic, preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, or palliative. Comparative effectiveness research may also address public health or systems interventions that affect health outcomes. Comparative effectiveness research is designed to inform patient and clinician decisions relevant to the unique circumstances of individual patients.
AHRQ will spend appropriated funds to research and provide information on the relative strengths and weaknesses of various medical interventions. Such research will give clinicians and patients valid information with which to make decisions that will improve the performance of the U.S. health care system. AHRQ’s comparative effectiveness research will support HHS strategic plan goal 1: improve the safety, quality, affordability and accessibility of health care, including behavioral health care and long-term care.