AHRQ Announces Interest in Research on Digital Healthcare Safety
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

October 28, 2021

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Issued by

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)


This Special Emphasis Notice (SEN) informs the research community that the Division of Digital Healthcare Research at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) intends to support research regarding the safety of digital healthcare systems.

AHRQ's digital healthcare research initiative is part of the Nation's strategy to put data and information generated via digital technologies to work in healthcare. By making health data and information available electronically when and where it is needed, digital healthcare can improve the quality and safety of care, even as it makes health care more cost-effective.

What is Digital Healthcare?

The term digital healthcare applies to activities involving the transfer of information between patient and provider throughout the entire patient journey, including the intelligent use of all related data. Digital healthcare applications or systems can use a variety of technologies, such as desktop computer applications, touch screen kiosks, video and remote monitoring tools, wearables, smart mobile devices, and healthcare solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Examples of digital healthcare applications or systems include electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine, computerized provider order entry (CPOE), computerized clinical decision support (CDS) systems, consumer health informatics applications (including patient portals), and electronic exchange of health information. Digital healthcare applications or systems of interest to AHRQ under this SEN must support patient care related activities as described.

Research Areas of Interest

Research is needed in two key areas: how the digital healthcare ecosystem can improve patient safety and how components of it can be safely used and implemented. AHRQ-funded research provides critical evidence in both areas.

While digital healthcare has been shown to improve health care quality and safety, recent research suggests that it may also potentially cause new errors (i.e., technology induced errors). In particular, the design (including usability) and implementation of digital healthcare systems can impact how the systems are used and lead to errors. There is a need for improved approaches to digital healthcare system design, usability, and implementation; to understand how users interact with the systems; to carefully monitor the systems' use and performance post-implementation; and to understand how to address causes of errors. In addition, many have called for the use of user-centered design, and human factors and ergonomics, sociotechnical systems theory, human-computer engineering, usability engineering, and other related frameworks and approaches to improve digital healthcare safety.

AHRQ is interested in funding applications that will conduct research on safe digital healthcare practices specifically related to the design, implementation, usability, and safe use of digital healthcare by all users, including patients. These projects would generate new evidence on safe digital healthcare practices that could be used by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and others to inform policy guidance.

R01 and R18 projects should include personnel from digital healthcare vendors and health care delivery organizations in the project personnel. Patient Safety Organization involvement in R01 projects is strongly encouraged, as is industry partnership.

Further Guidance

Applicants must clearly state in the Project Summary (abstract) and in the Specific Aims sections of the grant application that they are responding to this particular SEN (NOT-HS-22-004).

Use of Funding Mechanisms. AHRQ will use standing Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) to support applications submitted in response to this notice. Applicants may apply under one of the following NOFOs:

PA-18-793: AHRQ Health Services Research Demonstration and Dissemination Grants (R18)
PA-18-795: AHRQ Health Services Research Projects (R01)
PA-18-794: AHRQ Small Research Grant Program (R03)

Limitations on Timelines and Funds

Project period limitations, application deadlines, and budget limitations are specific to each NOFO and are stated in each NOFO.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Sheena Patel
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Division of Digital Healthcare Research
Telephone: 301-427-1505
Email: DigitalHealthcareResearch@ahrq.hhs.gov

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