Trump FY 2020 budget funds absorption of AHRQ into NIH

Select agency activities to be consolidated into new National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget proposal includes $256 million to consolidate some activities of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within the National Institutes of Health.

AHRQ, which supports health services research addressing patient safety and healthcare quality as well as the application of health IT, will cease to exist as a standalone agency with its funding zeroed.

AHRQ’s congressionally enacted appropriations in FY 2018 and FY 2019 were $334 million and $338 million, respectively. The agency also received mandatory transfers from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (PCORTF) in FY 2018 and FY 2019 for total program levels of $433 million and $451 million, respectively. However, the PCORTF “sunsets” in FY 2019.

The Trump administration’s FY 2020 budget is meant to streamline the Department of Health and Human Services’ research activities and eliminate redundancies by absorbing AHRQ into NIH as the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality.

Also See: Trump budget eliminates AHRQ, makes major cuts to OCR, ONC

“The new National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ) proposed in the budget will continue key research activities currently led by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in testimony this week before two separate House subcommittees. “These activities will support researchers by developing the knowledge, tools, and data needed to improve the healthcare system.”

According to HHS, NIRSQ will serve as a center of excellence for improving the quality and safety of healthcare and will support the industry’s transition from “volume” to “value” by focusing on improving outcomes, reducing cost and expanding choices for consumers.

“NIRSQ will achieve this by supporting health services research, addressing pressing healthcare issues through data and technology, and harnessing the power of predictive analytics to improve diagnostics,” states an HHS budget justification document.

Included in NIRSQ’s $256 million FY 2020 budget is $58 million for Health Services Research, Data and Dissemination, of which $43 million will support investigator-initiated research grants, which is described by HHS as a “source for extramural researchers to identify and pursue the most innovative projects.”

The proposed NIRSQ budget also provides $65 million for a patient safety portfolio to fund research projects that “prevent, mitigate and decrease the number of patient safety risks and hazards” in order to “provide the evidence base that CMS and other HHS agencies use to improve patient safety on a national scale.”

Among the key activities that will receive financial support are the Patient Safety Learning Labs, which apply system engineering approaches to address both diagnostic and treatment errors in healthcare. In addition, NIRSQ will accelerate evidence on preventing and treating opioid abuse in primary care, especially older adults, according to HHS.

“This will allow NIRSQ to produce successful yet unexpected discoveries in the nation’s most pressing healthcare issues such as the opioid epidemic and value-based research,” contends HHS.

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