AHRQ’s Digital Healthcare Research Program: Milestones and Achievements


The Digital Healthcare Research Program, part of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), has been at the forefront of transforming healthcare through innovative research and technology. Since its inception, the program has played a pivotal role in advancing the use of health information technology (health IT) to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of healthcare for all Americans. This timeline highlights key milestones and achievements that have shaped the landscape of digital healthcare over the years.


From the establishment of the Division of Health Information Technology in 2004 to the release of the Digital Healthcare Equity Framework in 2024, AHRQ's Digital Healthcare Research Program has continually driven progress in the digital healthcare sector. Through strategic partnerships, pioneering research, and targeted funding, the program has laid the groundwork for significant advancements in health IT, clinical decision support, patient safety, and healthcare equity.

Key Highlights Include:

  • The launch of the Transforming Healthcare Quality through Health Information Technology (THQIT) initiative.
  • Early efforts in health information exchange (HIE) that set the stage for nationwide data sharing.
  • Collaborations with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enhance drug safety through health IT.
  • Ongoing initiatives to integrate patient-generated data and improve clinical decision support.

We invite you to explore the detailed timeline below to learn more about the significant contributions of AHRQ's Digital Healthcare Research Program to the field of digital health.

2004Division of Health IT establishedBuilding on earlier work of AHRQ and its predecessor entities, and recognizing that AHRQ’s health information technology (health IT) research needed a home of its own, AHRQ established the Division of Health IT to coordinate its technology-related research.
2004THQIT grants awardedUnder the Transforming Healthcare Quality through Health Information Technology, or THQIT initiative, 118 grantees planned, implemented, and demonstrated the value of digital healthcare broadly. One of these projects was Project ECHO, an early telehealthcare consultation model.
2004AHRQ makes forays into HIEAHRQ funded the first large-scale demonstrations of health information exchange (HIE) in the United States. These six statewide projects laid the foundation for HIE efforts across the country by developing best practices around data sharing. The $139 million investment also supported more than 100 grants across 38 states to help local providers use health IT and established the National Health Information Technology Resource Center to support health IT adoption.
2005Funding for health IT in rural, underserved areas awardedAHRQ increased its total investment in health IT to $166 million with new awards to advance the implementation of 16 health IT planning grant recipients. Much of the funding supported local adoption of health IT in rural and underserved areas.
2007AHRQ, FDA work together on drug safety using health ITAHRQ worked with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish the Health Information Technology Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics to understand how health information technology can improve the safe use of medications.
2008Advancing CDS across institutions and Electronic Health RecordsAHRQ funded two clinical decision support (CDS) demonstration projects: the Clinical Decision Support Consortium, which included academic and provider institutions and technology vendors, to define best practices for CDS in ambulatory care; and the GLIDES (GuideLines Into Decision Support) project, which implemented CDS tools for evidence-based guideline recommendations for pediatric obesity and asthma.
2013Health IT for children’s healthcare expandedAHRQ partnered with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to release the Children’s Electronic Health Record Format to bridge the gap between existing electronic health record (EHR) systems and optimal care for child health. The same year, an AHRQ-funded project integrated a CDS system with routine pediatric care to screen for developmental disabilities at regular intervals.
2015First “JASON” reports publishedAHRQ, along with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, developed two major reports by independent scientists and experts, the first on health data interoperability, the second on management of individual health data. These reports would guide the field for how to support and advance a national health data architecture.
2016AHRQ helps move Patient Centered Outcomes Research into CDS and launches CDS ConnectAHRQ launched a program of grants and contracts aimed at helping health care providers move patient-centered outcomes research evidence into practice through CDS. These include CDS Connect.
2017New “JASON” report on AI for Health and Healthcare \publishedAHRQ, along with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, published a study that considered how artificial intelligence (AI) can assist in improving health and healthcare. This report concluded that broad advances in AI are significant and real but cautioned about the limitations of AI.
2019AHRQ explores using health IT to improve quality of care transitionsAHRQ published a Notice of Funding Opportunity to test health IT solutions to facilitate communication and care coordination as patients transition between providers, settings, and communities.
2020Name changed to Digital Healthcare Research ProgramGiven digital technology’s centrality to the healthcare quality enterprise, AHRQ’s Division of Health IT renamed itself: the Digital Healthcare Research Program. This signified a strategic realignment with the evolving digital healthcare landscape.
2021AHRQ considers the intersection of technology and patient-generated data and outcomesAHRQ published Integrating Patient-Generated Health Data into Electronic Health Records in Ambulatory Care Settings: A Practical Guide and a toolkit designed to help healthcare systems govern, integrate, and report electronic patient-reported outcomes data for clinical care delivery.
2021CDS Innovation Collaborative establishedAHRQ launched the CDS Innovation Collaborative, a learning collaborative that advances Patient-Centered CDS (PC-CDS) by creating a foundation of PC-CDS resources and convening patients, developers, clinicians, and others through workgroups and demonstration projects.
2024Digital Healthcare Equity Framework and Practical Guide releasedAHRQ produced the Digital Healthcare Equity Framework: A Practical Guide for Implementation to empower developers and users of digital healthcare technologies and solutions to consider healthcare equity outcomes.