Part A - Establishment and General Duties

42 USC 299 - Mission and duties

(a) In general 
There is established within the Public Health Service an agency to be known as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which shall be headed by a director appointed by the Secretary. The Secretary shall carry out this subchapter acting through the Director.
(b) Mission 
The purpose of the Agency is to enhance the quality, appropriateness, and effectiveness of health services, and access to such services, through the establishment of a broad base of scientific research and through the promotion of improvements in clinical and health system practices, including the prevention of diseases and other health conditions. The Agency shall promote health care quality improvement by conducting and supporting
(1) research that develops and presents scientific evidence regarding all aspects of health care, including
(A) the development and assessment of methods for enhancing patient participation in their own care and for facilitating shared patient-physician decision-making;

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(B) the outcomes, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of health care practices, including preventive measures and long-term care;
(C) existing and innovative technologies;
(D) the costs and utilization of, and access to health care;
(E) the ways in which health care services are organized, delivered, and financed and the interaction and impact of these factors on the quality of patient care;
(F) methods for measuring quality and strategies for improving quality; and
(G) ways in which patients, consumers, purchasers, and practitioners acquire new information about best practices and health benefits, the determinants and impact of their use of this information;
(2) the synthesis and dissemination of available scientific evidence for use by patients, consumers, practitioners, providers, purchasers, policy makers, and educators; and
(3) initiatives to advance private and public efforts to improve health care quality.
(c) Requirements with respect to rural and inner-city areas and priority populations 

(1) Research, evaluations and demonstration projects 
In carrying out this subchapter, the Director shall conduct and support research and evaluations, and support demonstration projects, with respect to

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(A) the delivery of health care in inner-city areas, and in rural areas (including frontier areas); and
(B) health care for priority populations, which shall include
(i) low-income groups;
(ii) minority groups;
(iii) women;
(iv) children;
(v) the elderly; and
(vi) individuals with special health care needs, including individuals with disabilities and individuals who need chronic care or end-of-life health care.
(2) Process to ensure appropriate research 
The Director shall establish a process to ensure that the requirements of paragraph (1) are reflected in the overall portfolio of research conducted and supported by the Agency.
(3) Office of Priority Populations 
The Director shall establish an Office of Priority Populations to assist in carrying out the requirements of paragraph (1).

42 USC 299a - General authorities

(a) In general 
In carrying out section 299 (b) of this title, the Director shall conduct and support research, evaluations, and training, support demonstration projects, research networks, and multidisciplinary centers, provide technical assistance, and disseminate information on health care and on systems for the delivery of such care, including activities with respect to
(1) the quality, effectiveness, efficiency, appropriateness and value of health care services;
(2) quality measurement and improvement;
(3) the outcomes, cost, cost-effectiveness, and use of health care services and access to such services;
(4) clinical practice, including primary care and practice-oriented research;
(5) health care technologies, facilities, and equipment;
(6) health care costs, productivity, organization, and market forces;
(7) health promotion and disease prevention, including clinical preventive services;
(8) health statistics, surveys, database development, and epidemiology; and
(9) medical liability.
(b) Health services training grants 

(1) In general 
The Director may provide training grants in the field of health services research related to activities authorized under subsection (a) of this section, to include pre- and post-doctoral fellowships and training programs, young investigator awards, and other programs and activities as appropriate. In carrying out this subsection, the Director shall make use of funds made available under section 288 (d)(3) of this title as well as other appropriated funds.
(2) Requirements 
In developing priorities for the allocation of training funds under this subsection, the Director shall take into consideration shortages in the number of trained researchers who are addressing health care issues for the priority populations identified in section 299 (c)(1)(B) of this title and in addition, shall take into consideration indications of long-term commitment, amongst applicants for training funds, to addressing health care needs of the priority populations.
(c) Multidisciplinary centers 
The Director may provide financial assistance to assist in meeting the costs of planning and establishing new centers, and operating existing and new centers, for multidisciplinary health services research, demonstration projects, evaluations, training, and policy analysis with respect to the matters referred to in subsection (a) of this section.
(d) Relation to certain authorities regarding social security 
Activities authorized in this section shall be appropriately coordinated with experiments, demonstration projects, and other related activities authorized by the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 301 et seq.] and the Social Security Amendments of 1967. Activities under subsection (a)(2) of this section that affect the programs under titles XVIII, XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 1395 et seq., 1396 et seq., 1397aa et seq.] shall be carried out consistent with section 1142 of such Act [42 U.S.C. 1320b–12].
(e) Disclaimer 
The Agency shall not mandate national standards of clinical practice or quality health care standards. Recommendations resulting from projects funded and published by the Agency shall include a corresponding disclaimer.
(f) Rule of construction 
Nothing in this section shall be construed to imply that the Agencys role is to mandate a national standard or specific approach to quality measurement and reporting. In research and quality improvement activities, the Agency shall consider a wide range of choices, providers, health care delivery systems, and individual preferences.

42 USC 299a1 - Research on health disparities

(a) In general 
The Director shall
(1) conduct and support research to identify populations for which there is a significant disparity in the quality, outcomes, cost, or use of health care services or access to and satisfaction with such services, as compared to the general population;
(2) conduct and support research on the causes of and barriers to reducing the health disparities identified in paragraph (1), taking into account such factors as socioeconomic status, attitudes toward health, the language spoken, the extent of formal education, the area or community in which the population resides, and other factors the Director determines to be appropriate;
(3) conduct and support research and support demonstration projects to identify, test, and evaluate strategies for reducing or eliminating health disparities, including development or identification of effective service delivery models, and disseminate effective strategies and models;
(4) develop measures and tools for the assessment and improvement of the outcomes, quality, and appropriateness of health care services provided to health disparity populations;
(5) in carrying out section 299a (c) of this title, provide support to increase the number of researchers who are members of health disparity populations, and the health services research capacity of institutions that train such researchers; and
(6) beginning with fiscal year 2003, annually submit to the Congress a report regarding prevailing disparities in health care delivery as it relates to racial factors and socioeconomic factors in priority populations.
(b) Research and demonstration projects 

(1) In general 
In carrying out subsection (a) of this section, the Director shall conduct and support research and support demonstrations to
(A) identify the clinical, cultural, socioeconomic, geographic, and organizational factors that contribute to health disparities, including minority health disparity populations, which research shall include behavioral research, such as examination of patterns of clinical decisionmaking, and research on access, outreach, and the availability of related support services (such as cultural and linguistic services);
(B) identify and evaluate clinical and organizational strategies to improve the quality, outcomes, and access to care for health disparity populations, including minority health disparity populations;
(C) test such strategies and widely disseminate those strategies for which there is scientific evidence of effectiveness; and
(D) determine the most effective approaches for disseminating research findings to health disparity populations, including minority populations.
(2) Use of certain strategies 
In carrying out this section, the Director shall implement research strategies and mechanisms that will enhance the involvement of individuals who are members of minority health disparity populations or other health disparity populations, health services researchers who are such individuals, institutions that train such individuals as researchers, members of minority health disparity populations or other health disparity populations for whom the Agency is attempting to improve the quality and outcomes of care, and representatives of appropriate tribal or other community-based organizations with respect to health disparity populations. Such research strategies and mechanisms may include the use of
(A) centers of excellence that can demonstrate, either individually or through consortia, a combination of multi-disciplinary expertise in outcomes or quality improvement research, linkages to relevant sites of care, and a demonstrated capacity to involve members and communities of health disparity populations, including minority health disparity populations, in the planning, conduct, dissemination, and translation of research;
(B) provider-based research networks, including health plans, facilities, or delivery system sites of care (especially primary care), that make extensive use of health care providers who are members of health disparity populations or who serve patients in such populations and have the capacity to evaluate and promote quality improvement;
(C) service delivery models (such as health centers under section 254b of this title and the Indian Health Service) to reduce health disparities; and
(D) innovative mechanisms or strategies that will facilitate the translation of past research investments into clinical practices that can reasonably be expected to benefit these populations.
(c) Quality measurement development 

(1) In general 
To ensure that health disparity populations, including minority health disparity populations, benefit from the progress made in the ability of individuals to measure the quality of health care delivery, the Director shall support the development of quality of health care measures that assess the experience of such populations with health care systems, such as measures that assess the access of such populations to health care, the cultural competence of the care provided, the quality of the care provided, the outcomes of care, or other aspects of health care practice that the Director determines to be important.
(2) Examination of certain practices 
The Director shall examine the practices of providers that have a record of reducing health disparities or have experience in providing culturally competent health services to minority health disparity populations or other health disparity populations. In examining such practices of providers funded under the authorities of this chapter, the Director shall consult with the heads of the relevant agencies of the Public Health Service.
(3) Report 
Not later than 36 months after November 22, 2000, the Secretary, acting through the Director, shall prepare and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report describing the state-of-the-art of quality measurement for minority and other health disparity populations that will identify critical unmet needs, the current activities of the Department to address those needs, and a description of related activities in the private sector.
(d) Definition 
For purposes of this section:
(1) The term health disparity population has the meaning given such term in section 287c–31 of this title, except that in addition to the meaning so given, the Director may determine that such term includes populations for which there is a significant disparity in the quality, outcomes, cost, or use of health care services or access to or satisfaction with such services as compared to the general population.
(2) The term minority, with respect to populations, refers to racial and ethnic minority groups as defined in section 300u–6 of this title.