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PCORI Nails Down a Definition, at Last

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2012

Did this painstakingly crafted definition take a lot of time? Obviously. Did it take too much time? Probably, but I wasn't there to appreciate the difficulty in managing large numbers of healthcare providers with busy schedules and divergent interests.

It's safe to say that this is an organization that has to be as scientific and careful as it has to be politically savvy and listen to all voices, especially now when Republican presidential candidates are vowing to tear into the Affordable Care Act. It's clear that PCORI, with its substantial coffers, doesn't want to give them ammunition.

In January, the organization issued its first report, required by the Affordable Care Act that created it, spelling out areas of priority for research.  That report, now out for public comment, fell far short of that.

Instead of listing what research projects the agency would prioritize, the 22-page report listed only five general topics. With so few specifics, it seemed the report wouldn't offend anyone.

PCORI's 21-member Board of Governors, appointed by the Government Accountability Office in September 2010 has met nine times so far, while its working groups and committees have met a lot more.

The board has has spent $8.8 million of the $3.5 billion to date, and has a staff of 14, with another 41 expected to come on board by year end. And in a few months, it will move to much bigger office space down the street from the White House.

In the end, it is clear that examining the process of getting patients together with appropriate care decisions that give them the outcomes they want, not what their doctors want, is what this committee intends to do.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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