The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Should Focus on High-Impact Problems That Can Be Solved

By Harold Sox, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Comparative effectiveness research evaluates and compares the risks, benefits, health outcomes, and clinical effectiveness of methods to prevent, diagnose, treat, or monitor disease. This new branch of research applies epidemiology techniques to produce evidence that patients and medical providers need to make informed choices.

Based on an Institute of Medicine recommendation, $1.1 billion in federal funding was set aside for comparative effectiveness research in 2009. More recently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) established a new national body, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

PCORI will use its endowment of $150 million and revenue from a tax on health insurers to identify which treatments work best for which patients, resulting in improved outcomes and reduced waste. But there isn’t much time to prove its own effectiveness — the program is scheduled to end in 2019.

Dr. Harold Sox suggests ways that PCORI could set an agenda for success. This article was adapted from the author’s 2011 John M. Eisenberg Legacy Lecture, which was sponsored by CHCF.

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