||Navigating Health Care: Comparative Effectiveness - What Is It?
Rand: More than 125 million Americans live with a chronic condition, such as
diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. If you are one of them, you probably
know that you have many treatment options. But what you may not know is how to
compare these options, including their effectiveness and risks, to decide which
one is right for you. AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy joins us now to talk
about AHRQ resources that can help you understand and evaluate your treatment
options. Dr. Clancy, thank you so much for being with us.
Dr. Clancy: Thank you.
Rand: We sometimes hear the term "comparative effectiveness?" What does this
Dr. Clancy: Comparative effectiveness is being able to compare treatments based
on whether they offer the best possible outcome for patients. Now, more than
ever, consumers have many treatment options, especially if they have a chronic
condition. But one of the greatest challenges in making these health care
decisions is finding a way to compare those choices by sifting through all the
reliable scientific evidence and practical data to compare choices.
Rand: How do people usually make these sorts of choices?
Dr. Clancy: These days, it’s pretty easy to find health information online. But
it’s not as easy to find information that’s trustworthy and unbiased. Many
consumers are bombarded with television and Internet ads about medications and
other treatments. I also find that people like to rely on advice from their
families and friends. I caution against these approaches, however, because the
television or even your family member may not offer you advice based on the
latest scientific evidence. Also, all patients - all people - are different. So
just because a medication or treatment worked for your brother, sister or best
friend, doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
Rand: So where can consumers find, as you say, trustworthy and unbiased health
Dr. Clancy: AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Web site is a great place to start.
AHRQ established the Effective Health Care Program to develop the information
that patients and clinicians need to decide on the most effective treatments.
Our Web site offers summary guidelines that are written in plain language and
compare treatment options for a variety of diseases, ranging from depression to
osteoarthritis. The guides, available in Spanish and English, offer unbiased
comparisons of treatment choices’ benefits, risks, and pricing. In fact, some of
these reports are cited by Consumer Reports for its Best Buy Drugs series. Also,
if you’re looking for additional information online, try the Web site
Healthfinder.gov. This site links to more than 6,000 government and nonprofit
health groups with information on hundreds of health topics.
Rand: What’s the take-home message here for consumers trying to compare
treatment options and their effectiveness?
Dr. Clancy: The bottom line is that consumers deserve to have access to credible
information that allows them to make meaningful head-to-head comparisons about
treatment options. AHRQ’s decision-making tools, including our Effective Health
Care summary guides, give consumers this valuable information, so they can
decide with their clinicians which option is likely the most-effective and best
choice for them. I’m Dr. Carolyn Clancy and that’s my advice for navigating the
Health Care System.
Rand: For more information about comparative effectiveness and to find the
Effective Health Care Summary Guides log on to