As Jeffrey Lerner explains:
AHRQ funds the studies and systematic reviews that objectively evaluate how well clinical procedures, quality approaches, and consumer satisfaction work. But AHRQ's approximately $400 million annual budget does more than pay for studies. It helps fund what has been the missing link of American health care: what treatments work best and how errors can be prevented.It won't do any good for NIH to fund the development of new medical technologies and treatments if the health care system fails to deliver accurate diagnosis and the competent decision making and administration of treatment. That's what AHRQ is all about -- improving the delivery of health care. And believe me, there is a lot more potential there to improve patient outcomes, more quickly, and for less money, than there is in basic biomedical science. If we aren't doing what we already know we should be doing, we're wasting all of our research dollars.
This isn't the first time this has happened. AHRQ is the successor to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. In 1993, when an AHCPR panel concluded that surgery should not be a first line treatment for low back pain, back surgeons succeeded in getting congress to vastly downsize the agency and limit its mission. Really. And useless, expensive and dangerous back surgery continued to be performed for decades.
I must disclose that I personally have a proposal before AHRQ, to study diagnostic error in primary care. Don't you think its worthwhile reducing the incidence of misdiagnosis? Wouldn't you like to have more confidence that your doctor won't misdiagnose you? Or would that be a waste of taxpayer money? Think about it, then write your congressperson.