It is evident that health and health care in the United States is in a period of unprecedented opportunity, accompanied by imposing challenges. The promises are clear. Yet significant unmet challenges remain, and some of them are worsening. A new National Academy of Medicine (NAM) special publication says that health services research can assist in solving these challenges, but the field requires sustained and dependable federal funding.

However, in the current policy environment, questions have been raised about the scope, scale, structure, and function of government support for health services research – when funding for this research is arguably most essential. Centered on discussions from a workshop held in February 2018, the special publication describes the impact that health services research has had on health care quality, access, and value as well as future priorities for the field. Increased and sustained federal and nonfederal funding is required to support the priorities identified over the course of the workshop. The range of these issues faced by the US health care system that can be addressed by health services research is so substantial that relying on spontaneous and sometimes serendipitous response capacity in the field will not meet the need. Congress has recently made resources available and delivered a mandate to study future federal funding in the field. Now is a critical time for the field of health services research to articulate its value and coordinate efforts to address the issues plaguing the US health care system, as the physical and financial health of the nation is at stake.

The workshop and NAM special publication was sponsored by AcademyHealth, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Federation of American Hospitals, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the nation and the international community. Through its domestic and global initiatives, the NAM works to address critical issues in health, medicine, and related policy and inspire positive action across sectors. The NAM collaborates closely with its peer academies and other divisions within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  The views presented in this special publication – “The Future of Health Services Research: Advancing Health Systems Research and Practice in the United States” – are those of the authors and do not represent formal consensus positions of the NAM; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; or the authors’ organizations.

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