Skip Navigation
Department of Health and Human Services

How Are Research Topics Chosen?

All suggestions for research are carefully considered. However, the Program uses a set of factors to assign priority to certain topics.

Health-Care Service Priorities

Priority is given to health-care services that: 

  • Impose high costs on Medicare, Medicaid, or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
  • May be overutilized or underutilized.
  • May significantly improve the prevention, treatment, or cure of diseases and conditions that impose high direct or indirect costs on patients or society.
  • Places a great burden on people, especially those who are “priority populations” as identified by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).


Patient Population Priorities

Priority is also given to suggestions that focus on certain patient populations, including:

  • Low-income groups.
  • Minority groups.
  • Women.
  • Children.
  • The elderly.
  • Individuals with special health-care needs, such as those with disabilities, those who need chronic care or end-of-life care, or those who live in inner-city and rural areas.


Additional Selection Criteria

The list below provides additional detail regarding the selection criteria for research topics suggested to the Program:


  • Represents a health-care drug, intervention, device, or technology available (or soon to be available) in the United States. Interventions include drugs, devices, medical tests, and mechanisms of health care delivery.


  • Represents a significant disease burden; affects a large proportion or priority population
  • Was nominated/strongly supported by one or more stakeholder groups.
  • Represents important uncertainty for decisionmakers.
  • Incorporates issues surrounding both clinical benefits and potential clinical harms.
  • Represents important variation in clinical care or controversy in what constitutes appropriate clinical care.
  • Represents high costs due to common use, high unit costs, or high associated costs to consumers, patients, health-care systems, or payers.


  • Potential for redundancy (i.e., whether a proposed topic is already covered by an available or soon-to-be available high-quality systematic review by AHRQ or others).


Effectively utilizes existing research and knowledge by considering:

  • Adequacy (type and volume) of research for conducting a systematic review.
  • Newly available evidence (particularly for updates or new technologies).

Potential Value

  • Potential for significant health impact:
    • To improve health outcomes.
    • To reduce significant variation in clinical practices known to be related to quality of care.
    • To reduce unnecessary burden on those with health-care problems.
  • Potential for significant economic impact:
    • To reduce unnecessary or excessive costs.
  • Potential for change:
    • The proposed topic exists within a clinical, consumer, or policymaking context that is amenable to evidence-based change.
    • A product from the Program could be an appropriate vehicle.
  • Potential risk from inaction:
    • Unintended harms from lack of prioritization of a nominated topic.
  • Addresses inequities, vulnerable populations (including issues for patient subgroups).
  • Addresses a topic that has clear implications for resolving important dilemmas in health and health care decisions made by one or more stakeholder groups.