What AHRQ Learned While Working to Transform Primary Care

Ann Fam Med. 2024 Mar-Apr;22(2):161-166. doi: 10.1370/afm.3090.


Building on previous efforts to transform primary care, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) launched EvidenceNOW: Advancing Heart Health in 2015. This 3-year initiative provided external quality improvement support to small and medium-size primary care practices to implement evidence-based cardiovascular care. Despite challenges, results from an independent national evaluation demonstrated that the EvidenceNOW model successfully boosted the capacity of primary care practices to improve quality of care, while helping to advance heart health. Reflecting on AHRQ's own learnings as the funder of this work, 3 key lessons emerged: (1) there will always be surprises that will require flexibility and real-time adaptation; (2) primary care transformation is about more than technology; and (3) it takes time and experience to improve care delivery and health outcomes. EvidenceNOW taught us that lasting practice transformation efforts need to be responsive to anticipated and unanticipated changes, relationship-oriented, and not tied to a specific disease or initiative. We believe these lessons argue for a national primary care extension service that provides ongoing support for practice transformation.

Keywords: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); EvidenceNOW; health extension; practice facilitation; practice transformation; primary health care; quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care* / methods
  • Quality Improvement*
  • United States
  • United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality