AHRQ Announces Interest in Research on Health IT Safety

Funding Agency:
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

This Special Emphasis Notice (SEN) informs the research community that the Division of Health Information Technology (IT) at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) intends to support research regarding the safety of health IT systems.

AHRQ’s Division of Health IT develops and disseminates evidence to inform policy and practice on how health information technology can improve the quality of health care.

What is Health IT? 
Health information technology (IT) is broadly defined as the use of information and communication technology in health care to support the PA-14-001 or population care or to support patient self-management. Health IT can support patient care related activities such as order communications, results reporting, care planning, and clinical or health documentation. Health IT applications or systems can use a variety of platforms, such as desktop computer applications, tablet computer applications, cellular phones, smart phones, touch screen kiosks, and others. Examples of health IT applications or systems include electronic health records (EHRs), electronic medical records (EMRs), telemedicine, computerized provider order entry (CPOE), computerized clinical decision support (CDS) systems, consumer health informatics applications (including personal health records [PHRs]), and electronic exchange of health information. Health IT applications or systems of interest to AHRQ under this SEN must support patient care related activities as described.

AHRQ will use standing Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) to support applications submitted in response to this notice.  Applicants may apply under one of the following FOAs:

PA-14-001:  Exploratory and Developmental Grant to Improve Health Care Quality through Health Information Technology (IT) (R21)
PA-14-290:  AHRQ Health Services Research Demonstration and Dissemination Grants (R18)
PA-14-291:  AHRQ Health Services Research Projects (R01)
PA-15-147:  AHRQ Small Research Grant Program (R03)

Project period limitations, application deadlines, and budget limitations are specific to each FOA and are stated in each FOA.  

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

While health IT has been shown to improve health care quality and safety, recent research suggests that it may also potentially cause new errors (i.e., technology–induced errors). In particular, the design (including usability) and implementation of health IT systems can impact how the systems are used and lead to errors. There is a need for improved approaches to health IT system design, usability, and implementation; to understand how users interact with the systems; to carefully monitor the systems' use and performance post-implementation; and to understand how to address causes of errors. In addition, many have called for the use of user-centered design, and human factors and ergonomics, sociotechnical systems theory, human-computer engineering, usability engineering, and other related frameworks and approaches to improve health IT safety.

AHRQ is interested in funding applications that will conduct research on safe health IT practices specifically related to the design, implementation, usability, and safe use of health IT by all users, including patients. These projects would generate new evidence on safe health IT practices that could be used by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and others to inform health IT certification and other forms of policy guidance.

R01 and R18 projects should include personnel from health IT vendors and health care delivery organizations in the project personnel. Patient Safety Organization involvement in R01 projects is strongly encouraged, as is industry partnership.

Funding Type





Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science
Social Sciences