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Executive Summary

Chris Dymek, Ed.D.

Director, Digital Healthcare Research Division

"The Digital Healthcare Research Program funds research to create actionable findings around 'what and how digital healthcare technologies work best' for its key stakeholders: patients, clinicians, and health systems working to improve healthcare quality and safety."

A message from the Director of the Digital Healthcare Research Program

AHRQ’s Digital Healthcare Research (DHR) program has played a central role in the emerging era of digital healthcare transformation. The program funds research that yields actionable findings about which digital technologies have the potential to improve patient care.

Our work is guided by a central commitment: to help build a research base on how digital healthcare solutions can be designed and implemented to improve patient safety, care, and shared decision making without putting excessive burdens on physicians and other members of the care team. We are excited to highlight the progress that our investments have made on behalf of the American public in the past year.

This year’s report leads with our Research Spotlight, Engaging Patients and Caregivers More Fully in Care Decisions and Actions, which focuses on how digital healthcare technology can better support patient-centered care. It explores AHRQ’s ongoing research investments on engaging and empowering patients in their care decisions, and how these technologies support the data collection and integration of patient-reported data to improve shared decision making by patients and clinicians.

The report also summarizes the impact that AHRQ-funded research has had in the following key stakeholder themes:

Included are stories of completed and emerging research by each research theme. Completed research stories amplify and demonstrate the impact of AHRQ-funded projects. Emerging research stories highlight new and innovative projects that address important AHRQ priority areas, such as advancing health equity or improving care during patient transitions. The 18 stories showcased in this report are told in the Principal Investigator’s own words, and demonstrate how AHRQ-funded researchers are advancing the knowledge base of how digital technologies can improve care, such as supporting chronic disease management including attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and depression; how optimizing data visualization can improve care; and improving healthcare technology design to advance patient safety.

The dissemination of AHRQ-funded research findings is critical to knowledge transfer and the spread of impactful evidence-based strategies. This report will present information about dissemination efforts including national webinars, research presentations, and publications. This year alone, presentations at large national and international conferences allowed researchers to discuss the impact of their work with thousands of attendees, and over 100 published research articles disseminate their research results even further.

In 2021,
the DHR program supported:

Grants and Nine Research Contracts
Institutions in 23 States and the District of Columbia

For a total 2021 investment of:
$30 Million including:

  • $14.4 million in funding from DHR appropriation;
  • $11 million in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund; and
  • $4.6 million in funding from General Health Services Research appropriation.

For a total investment of $158 million across all project years.

We are pleased to share the findings and real-world applications of the DHR program’s investments. We continue to champion advances within the field while taking important steps to increase our understanding of digital technologies that lead to better patient care. We hope that you enjoy reading about many of the DHR program accomplishments and the significant impact of the health services research we fund. Please send any comments or questions to