AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW Heart Health Initiative Reaches Key Milestone

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) initiative tasked with helping primary care practices implement the best evidence into practice to improve heart health, has reached more than eight million patients in three years, according to Leah Gordon, MPH, an Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) researcher who is part of an independent national evaluation of the program.

Starting in 2015, EvidenceNOW provided grants to seven “cooperatives” composed of public and private health partnerships and multidisciplinary teams of experts to support the use of the latest evidence on how to improve cardiovascular outcomes for patients. These cooperatives were able to engage 1,500 small and medium-sized primary care practices and more than 5,000 primary care clinicians in 12 states.

Gordon, who is an expert in evaluating health care disparities at OHSU, said using the latest evidence about heart health in primary care practices often leads to early detection and improved outcomes.

“You can prevent more heart attacks and more strokes. You can save more lives if you are delivering preventative care in the primary care setting [as opposed to in hospitals],” Gordon said during a Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) sharing call in May.

Practices participating in the EvidenceNOW initiative received customized support for implementing the latest evidence-based strategies for improving heart health in alignment with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts® initiative. These strategies focus on the “ABCS” of heart health—aspirin use, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation counseling.

The support included on-site practice facilitation and coaching, health information technology support, shared learning networks and expert consultation, as well as data feedback and benchmarking.

new infographic from AHRQ shows substantial increases in the capacity of primary care practices to use evidence and conduct quality improvement as a result of the EvidenceNOW initiative.

Seventy-seven percent of practices now report using teams to focus on quality improvement, compared to 63 percent before the initiative. In addition, 76 percent reported that they’re setting their own quality improvement goals and tracking performance over time. That number is up from 52 percent prior to EvidenceNOW’s support.

To build on these successes, the agency is developing a blueprint based on what it learned from the past three years to help guide other individuals and organizations interested in supporting and increasing the capacity of primary care practices, said Bob McNellis, a senior advisor for primary care at AHRQ, in an agency blog announcing the progress.

To learn more about specific examples of how the EvidenceNOW initiative was able to improve care quality at the local level, visit Stories from the Field. To explore early research findings from the initiative, download a new Annals of Family Medicine supplement—“AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW: Early Findings”—which highlights grantee research efforts and identifies essential opportunities and challenges in the primary care environment.