While the Department of Health and Human Service’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has taken some steps to disseminate comparative clinical effectiveness research, as required under the Affordable Care Act, it has not taken other actions to help fully address dissemination requirements.

That is the finding of a Government Accountability Office report released March 3. To implement the ACA's requirement for developing a publicly available database that contains comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER), AHRQ officials told GAO that they plan to create a webpage to list links to databases that could be used to search for research that evaluates and compares health outcomes and the clinical effectiveness, risks, and benefits of two or more medical treatments or services.

However, auditors charge that AHRQ “has not clearly defined how to disseminate information to certain stakeholder groups specified in the law, nor has it identified and documented time frames to implement the marketing plans and distribute the associated informational tools, as would be consistent with federal internal control standards, which state that significant events need to be clearly documented to ensure management goals are carried out.”

In addition, GAO revealed that “HHS's approach to building data capacity for CER lacks key elements, such as defined objectives, milestones, and time frames, that are necessary to ensure effectiveness.”

GAO recommended HHS direct AHRQ to take several actions related to its dissemination efforts, including identifying and documenting time frames for the implementation and distribution of marketing plans and informational tools. Further, auditors called on HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation to include clearly defined objectives, milestones, and time frames, or other indicators of performance, in its strategic road map used to identify CER-funded projects.

HHS concurred with both GAO recommendations. The full report can be found here.

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