VHQC a Part of Virginia Consortium Awarded $10 Million Federal Grant

May 26, 2015

VHQC, a nonprofit health quality consulting company, along with a cooperative team of health care and quality improvement experts led by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) were recently awarded a $10 million federal grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to help primary care practices use the latest evidence to improve the heart health of millions of Americans.

VHQC is part of the Virginia consortium called Heart of Virginia Healthcare, which is one of seven grantees awarded in the United States to take part in the AHRQ initiative, EvidenceNOW – Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care. The collaborative supports the broad U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) effort for Better Care, Smarter Spending, and Healthier People, and is aligned with the HHS’ Million Hearts® national initiative to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

In the fall of 2015, VHQC professionals will begin serving as practice facilitators to build primary care providers’ capacity for improvement and ability to adopt evidence-based patient care practices. Other members of Heart of Virginia Healthcare include Virginia Center for Health Innovation, four of Virginia’s schools of medicine, and evaluation specialists at George Mason University.

The expertise VHQC has amassed through its other major contracts as the Medicare Quality Innovation Network – Quality Improvement Organization for Maryland and Virginia and the Health IT Regional Extension Center for Virginia are important to the success of this new grant. Through these activities, VHQC has helped more than 3,000 Virginia primary care providers redesign patient care workflows, collect and report clinical performance data, and improve the provision of preventive care; skills that are important to the success of this new grant.

“Our significant experience in health IT and quality improvement uniquely positions us to offer valuable assistance to practices across the state. We welcome this opportunity to further our partnerships with physicians and organizations to strengthen primary care and ensure patients receive the best care,” said Sallie S. Cook, M.D., chief medical officer, VHQC.

As part of EvidenceNOW – Advancing Heart Health in Primary Care, Heart of Virginia Healthcare is composed of public and private partnerships and multidisciplinary teams of experts that will recruit and engage up to 300 small-to-medium, independent primary care practices and provide quality improvement services typically not available to them because of their size. These services include onsite practice facilitation and coaching, expert consultation, shared learning collaboratives, and electronic health record support.

“Primary care is undervalued and is not reaching its full potential, and very importantly a lot of primary care physicians are feeling tired and worn out,” said Anton Kuzel, M.D., chair and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, VCU School of Medicine. “We can’t afford to lose that kind of precious resource.”

Heart of Virginia Healthcare’s grant will run for three years and the related grant for evaluation of the entire EvidenceNOW initiative will last four years. Together, these grants represent one of the largest research investments to date by AHRQ. For more information about AHRQ’s EvidenceNOW initiative, including details on each of the grantees and cooperatives, visit:

“The goal of the EvidenceNOW initiative is to give primary care practices the support they need to help patients live healthier and longer,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “By targeting smaller practices, we have a unique opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk factors for hundreds of thousands of patients, and learn what kind of support results in better patient outcomes.”

EvidenceNOW supports AHRQ’s overall mission to ensure that evidence is understood and used. Funding for this initiative comes from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund created by the Affordable Care Act and supports AHRQ’s mandate to disseminate and implement patient-centered outcomes research findings so that new findings are integrated into the delivery of health care.

For more information about Million Hearts®, visit

About VHQC

For more than 30 years, VHQC has been leading the way to better health care for providers and other clients by offering expertise in quality improvement, utilization management, analytic services and health information technology support that improves patient outcomes — and often results in cost savings.

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