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ECRI Identifies 1,000 Interventions for AHRQ Healthcare Horizon Scanning System

June 2, 2012

Nearly 1,000 new and emerging healthcare technologies and services have been identified as having potential to address an unmet patient need during the first year of healthcare horizon scanning conducted by ECRI on behalf of the U. S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). ECRI Institute, an independent nonprofit that researches the best approaches to improving patient care, was selected by the Agency in September 2010 to develop, implement, and maintain the nation’s first Healthcare Horizon Scanning System.

These interventions, which cut across scores of diseases and conditions, are described in newly published reports that are free and available to the public on AHRQ’s Effective Health Care website. One report, Horizon Scanning Status Update, is a compendium of the topics being tracked in the system and includes a short description of each technology or service detailing the unmet need, potential patient population, intervention, developer, phase of development, comparators, and potential health impacts. The Potential High Impact Reports discuss topics within each priority condition that may have potential for high impact based on comments and opinions of various experts with clinical, health systems, health administration, and/or research backgrounds.

“The horizon scanning system is intended to help inform AHRQ’s deliberations for allocating resources for patient-centered outcomes research,” says ECRI Institute’s Karen Schoelles, MD, SM, project director for the Healthcare Horizon Scanning System. “Other groups engaging in comparative effectiveness research may also find these resources useful to identify potential comparators or even technologies or procedures in development that might disrupt current treatment paradigms,” adds Schoelles.

As the nation’s first and only initiative of its kind, the Healthcare Horizon Scanning System is a multi-year project designed to provide a comprehensive, systematic, transparent process for identifying, tracking, and monitoring new healthcare interventions and technologies across 14 priority areas identified by AHRQ. These priority areas include arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, depression, developmental delays, diabetes, functional limitations, infectious disease, obesity, peptic ulcer disease, pregnancy, pulmonary disease, and substance abuse. ECRI Institute also added a “cross-cutting” area to track interventions that impact more than 1 of the 14 priority areas identified by AHRQ.

Since December 2010, more than 10,000 leads have been uploaded into the system for consideration, and about 1,400 topics have been identified and moved through the system, according to the procedures outlined in the protocol. Topics in the system must be in development for humans and intended for use in the U.S. healthcare system. Topics that meet criteria for inclusion in the Horizon Scanning System are tracked not only while interventions are in development, but up to 2 years after initial diffusion/commercial availability in the United States.

The criteria and process for identifying interventions to be tracked in the AHRQ Healthcare Horizon Scanning System are described in detail in the Horizon Scanning Protocol and Operations Manual.

An unmet need may arise from a gap in effective ways to screen, diagnose, treat, monitor, manage, or provide or deliver care for a health condition or disease. Interventions might be lacking entirely (e.g., treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy) or existing options might be less than optimal. Unmet need also arises from conditions for which significant barriers exist to obtaining effective care, such as heart transplantation, or conditions for which availability of certain treatments is limited by location, access, or cultural or ethnic barriers that could cause health disparities.


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