Citing John Wennberg's pioneering geographic analyses of medical practice variations and potentially inappropriate use of health services across the U.S., AHCPR's supporters wanted the new agency to produce practice guidelines to promote evidence-based care. However, when one of those guidelines suggested that spinal fusion surgery was unnecessary for most patients with acute low back pain, AHCPR found its budget under attack. It didn't help that the agency was also identified with the failed Clinton health reform plan and had few defenders left in a Republican Congress after the 1994 elections. Although the agency survived, this experience eventually drove it out of the guideline-producing business for good. When AHRQ was reauthorized in 1999, the word "policy" was removed from its name.
From 2010 AHRQ Annual Conference presentation by Dr. Francis Chesley, Jr.
- Kenny Lin, MD
Director, Robert L. Phillips, Jr. Health Policy Fellowship
Department of Family Medicine
Georgetown University School of Medicine
*Note: I was employed as a medical officer at AHRQ from October 2006 through December 2010.