AHRQ Effective Health Care Program

Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center

The Evidence-based Practice Centers Program is the cornerstone of the AHRQ Effective Health Care Program. The evidence-based practice centers (EPCs) synthesize existing scientific literature about important health care topics and promote evidence-based practice and decision-making. These reviews use the research methodology of systematic review to systematically and critically appraise existing research and synthesize knowledge on a particular topic. EPC systematic reviews are based on rigorous, comprehensive methods, emphasizing explicitly detailed documentation of methods rationale and assumptions.

The Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) is one of 12 EPCs currently designated by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Oregon Health & Science University has held an EPC contract since the EPC Program's inception in 1997. The objectives of the EPC are to identify, develop, and refine questions for systematic review, synthesize evidence, and identify future research needs. Task order awards provide funding to:

Promote the synthesis and translation of evidence

  • Engage stakeholders to identify and refine questions in which systematic review will help disseminate and translate research findings for the stakeholder audience
  • Conduct comparative effectiveness reviews (CERs), technical briefs, and updates of reviews with systematic and transparent methods
  • Engage stakeholders to identify and characterize future research needs to inform real world health care decisions
  • Collaborate with partners, including other EPCs and AHRQ programs, to promote relevant, consistent, transparent, and valuable implementation of the systematic review process, dissemination of findings from systematic reviews and methodology projects, and the EPC Program as a whole

Improve validity and utility of systematic reviews for decision-making

  • Advance methods of systematic review through empiric methods research
  • Ensure quality of EPC reviews through associate editor and peer review

Improve consistency and cohesiveness of the EPC Program

  • Develop methods guidance and translation of methods guidance to aid implementation efforts for CERs and systematic reviews, reviews of medical tests, identification of future research needs, and topic identification
  • Develop tools to improve EPC Program efficiency

Since 1997, the EPCs have developed evidence reports and technology assessments on a wide spectrum of topics, both clinical and policy-oriented. The expertise of the EPCs is used for comparative and effectiveness reviews on medications, devices, and other relevant interventions. Published EPC evidence reports are available on the AHRQ Effective Health Care website.

The ultimate goal of EPC work is to present the "state of the science" on a given topic in a manner that can be directly applied to decisions made by users of health care information. These users include clinicians, patients, policy-makers, and purchasers and payers of health care, and may be individuals or their related organizations. Specifically, evidence reports and technology assessments have been used as a scientific foundation for development and implementation of clinical practice guidelines, clinical pathways, review criteria, performance measures, and other clinical quality improvements tools, individual treatment decisions, coverage or reimbursement policies, and to develop research agendas.

EPCs work with various partners and stakeholders to review a variety of health care delivery and clinical areas of focus. Clinical areas may focus on traditional therapeutics as well as complementary, alternative, nutritional, and other emerging areas such as genomics and may span from preventive services to implementation of medical devices. Of particular note, the AHRQ Effective Health Care program works with a variety of partners and conducts reviews through the EPC for a variety of other Federal programs including the US Preventive Services Task Force, the Technology Assessment Program, and other Federal agencies, such as individual centers within the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services, or other Federal branches of government.