This contract requires the management of almost 350 tasks spanning a variety of technical, research and assessment, facilitation, and scientific and interagency event management services required by AHRQ and its stakeholders. This support has included research support involving data collection, analyses, and information dissemination; policy/program review and assessments; data analyses and reports writing services; logistical support services; stakeholder facilitation; scientific events management; workshop and specialized training; publications development and communications services; and technical and management support services.


  • Technical and administrative support
  • Specialized research support
  • Stakeholder engagement and facilitation
  • Meeting management and support
  • Development and preparation of documents
  • Technical writing and editing
  • Workshops and specialized training


Cygnus provided a broad range of management and research services to support Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) activities. AHRQ issued approximately 347 work assignments. Descriptions of a few of the AHRQ assignments that encompassed the variety of services required by AHRQ are described briefly below.

  • Conducted independent substantive health services research and analyses required to prepare health policy materials and documents. This included providing policy research and evaluation support services and preparation of technical reports by Cygnus healthcare research SME’s and collection of data both from literature searches and from specialized focus groups and other activities required to assess and address research and policy questions and issues. These data were analyzed to develop options and methods by which to attain AHRQ research and policy goals.
  • Facilitation of interagency and AHRQ stakeholders collaboration to ensure successful participation and delivery of project goals and objectives.
  • Planning, scheduling, arranging, managing, and reporting on approximately 60 meetings annually. Meetings ranged in length from 1 to 2 days with 10 to 15 participants to 3 days with 200 to 300 participants.
  • Prepared materials and documents required to support AHRQ meetings (e.g., briefing books/packets).
  • Prepared summaries and reports of AHRQ meetings proceedings and executive summaries for various AHRQ audiences.
  • Provided administrative support as requested to support AHRQ operations (e.g., supporting Extranets for various AHRQ programs).

Descriptions of some of the AHRQ assignments that encompassed the variety of services required by AHRQ are described briefly below.


As a relatively small agency, AHRQ understands the importance of partnering to leverage resources. We assisted them in their work with diverse partners, including the American Board of Internal Medicine, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Health Resources and Services Administration. We often provided facilitators at meetings between AHRQ and Partner organizations. We also provided a senior-level rapporteur to record and take notes and to prepare summaries of proceedings of these meetings.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Support

The USPSTF meets quarterly to conduct an in-depth review of its evidence-based medicine research. Cygnus’ support to the Task Force included the preparation of extensive briefing books for distribution to the Task Force and their liaison agency participants before the meeting. The 2-day meetings of 60–70 participants were supported with all of the normal logistics activities as well as a goal-oriented detailed summary of the meeting results. Cygnus supported a dedicated Extranet that is an integral part of the process for developing consensus on clinical recommendations based on a review of evidence as well as the process for voting and comments on the final drafts of those recommendations. Cygnus also developed a tracking system to support the USPSTF’s monitoring of progress and management of deadlines and presentations for the meetings. We worked with AHRQ partner organizations to secure their reviews and comments on clinical recommendations developed by the Task Force. Members of the USPSTF and AHRQ staff formed work groups to advance specific goals between meetings. We supported work group conference calls by taking detailed minutes that captured decisions and action items. Cygnus also supported an expert panel meeting on cost-effectiveness research, which is one major factor in recommendations for preventive services.

Quality Interagency Coordinating Committee

This interagency Federal Government committee is concerned with advancing health care quality, with a recent focus on patient safety. Cygnus provided meeting arrangements and onsite support for more than a dozen meetings. In each instance, we also observed the meetings and prepared detailed summaries of meeting activities and presentations. These meetings averaged 35–60 participants.

Stakeholders Meetings

Cygnus supported meetings for Medical Event (Patient Safety) Reporting, Consumer Assessment of Hospital Plans Survey, and Child Health stakeholders. These meetings involved representatives of various Federal and private stakeholder organizations. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss concerns on related issues and to plan the parameters for developing partnerships for next steps. The services provided by Cygnus included pre-meeting, onsite and post-meeting support. Cygnus senior staff observed the meetings, arranged for recording of the proceedings, took notes, and prepared summary reports of meeting proceedings. These meetings averaged 75–300 participants.

Expert Panels

Cygnus provided logistical and technical writing support for expert panels in the areas of MEPS-HC Analytical Content, the HIV research network, promoting the judicious use of oral antimicrobial agents, increasing the use of asthma guidelines, HIV technologies, developing quality indicators for children’s health care, and the effectiveness of cooperative agreements for quality measure development and testing. We also supported expert meetings on knowledge transfer and utilization, bioterrorism preparedness research, medical and dental education outcomes, and home health quality measures. Senior-level Cygnus staff prepared full and brief summaries from these expert meetings to assist AHRQ in planning future programs (e.g., the development of Requests for Proposals) and promoting synergy among participants. These meetings averaged 30–50 participants.

National Advisory Council Meetings

Cygnus provided support to AHRQ’s National Advisory Council (NAC) meetings, which occur quarterly. The services provided by Cygnus included assisting the Work Assignment Leader create an agenda, compiling and distributing appropriate briefing materials, and providing onsite support throughout the meeting. Senior Cygnus staff prepared detailed summary reports for these meetings along with a briefer version for distribution to other interested parties. Because AHRQ executive management use these summaries to plan next steps, Cygnus staff produced both summaries on a quick-turnaround basis (5 business days). These meetings averaged 75 participants.

Research Agenda Setting Meetings

Cygnus provided logistical and technical writing support for research agenda setting in the areas of nursing, health care and the humanities, community-based participatory research, rural health care quality improvement, and evidence-based care for spina bifida. Almost all of these meetings required facilitators, and we worked with the Agency to ensure an appropriate facilitator-content match. Three of these meetings—Research Agenda Setting for the Health and Humanities, Community-Based Participatory Research, and Rural Health Care Quality Improvement—involved significant technical writing capabilities, as the Agency wanted to develop articles for publication from the proceedings.

Major Conferences

Cygnus supported three major conferences involving patient safety under this contract. The first of these was the Patient Safety Task Force, a national Summit on Collection and Use of Information to Reduce Errors. The sponsors of this meeting included AHRQ, CDC, FDA, and CMS. The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss how public and private sector organizations might collect and use information on medical errors and adverse events for both accountability and learning. This meeting was preceded by an AHRQ-sponsored stakeholder planning meeting that developed the goals and objectives for the Summit. Included in this support was a CDC-sponsored expert meeting in Atlanta before the Summit to investigate some of the barriers and issues for mature reporting systems. The Atlanta meeting included participants with active reporting systems, such as States and professional associations. The Summit was open to anyone interested in the patient safety reporting issue. Due to the topic, there was extensive media coverage of the proceedings. These meetings averaged 75–200 participants.

The support provided by Cygnus for the Summit included the normal meetings management support required for such meetings as well as technical observers and writers to prepare transcriptions of plenary and breakout sessions= proceedings that were provided to the Work Assignment Originator both in hard copy and electronic format.

The second major conference we supported was a joint effort of AHRQ and a medical foundation that addressed the Role and Responsibility of Physicians to Improve Patient Safety. This was a closed invitational meeting. A series of papers were commissioned and distributed before the meeting. These papers were written from divergent positions. A series of questions were developed around these topics, and the participants worked in groups to raise additional issues and perspectives. The writers subsequently redrafted their papers, taking into consideration the issues raised. The papers now are being prepared for publication as a supplement to a medical journal. Funding was provided by the partner for some of the meeting’s expenses, even though Cygnus performed most of the usual logistical support required by AHRQ.

The third major conference, Building the Business Case for Patient Safety, was cosponsored by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The 2-day conference involved approximately 250 high-level health care organization administrators. The goal of this invitational conference was to educate, stimulate, and build the business case for patient safety so hospital Chief Executive Officers might consider investing organizational resources in strategies designed to reduce the risk of medical errors and improve care outcomes. A Cygnus technical writer produced a summary for the meeting, which was posted on the meeting Web site.

Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) and Technology Assessment Meetings

A major component of AHRQ's mission is to provide evidence in support of health care decisionmaking among providers, patients, families, health system leaders, and policymakers. The EPC Program is a keystone for the Agency and a world leader in the field of evidence-based medicine. We provided logistical and technical writing support for the Program’s annual meetings, stakeholder meetings, and meetings of the many work groups that comprise the EPC Program. A number of the EPCs focus on technology assessment, and Cygnus supported two workshops in support of their efforts. These meetings averaged 80–90 participants.

AHRQ Council of Partners (AHRQCoPs) Partnerships for Quality Meeting

The focus of this meeting is to convene an interesting mix of investigators and organizations—from the nonprofit side, the delivery side, the academic side—to improve health care quality. Cygnus provided summary notes and logistical support for this 2-day meeting. AHRQCoPs is a recurring meeting involving 50 participants at both the local and national levels.

National Research Service Award (NRSA) Trainee's Research Conference

AHRQ supports this award through individual fellowships in health services research. These postdoctoral research fellowships provide opportunities for 1 or more years of academic training and supervised experience in applying quantitative research methods to the systematic analysis and evaluation of health care services. Cygnus provided logistical support for the 1-day meeting involving more than 200 participants.

Healthcare System Meetings

One of AHRQ’s major roles is to be a catalyst for system change and reform. Through AHRQ’s Transforming Health Systems Through Leadership, Design, and Incentives meeting, national experts are pooled to discuss strategies that will affect system changes that will produce greater access, value, and quality. This 2-day meeting involves 50 participants. Cygnus staff provided logistical support for implementation of this meeting and developed the necessary briefing materials for the meeting. Full summaries of the meeting based on expert commentary were delivered to AHRQ after the conclusion of the meeting.

Training and Workshops

Cygnus provided support to AHRQ-sponsored workshops that address specialized training needs or collaborative efforts among Federal and non-Federal participants. We provided logistical and materials development support for these 1- or 2-day meetings involving 30–130 participants. The content areas of these meetings included measurement issues of health insurance for the elderly, geographic methods and measurement for health services research involving vulnerable populations, and health services research issues for the National Children’s Survey.

Special Advisory Councils

In support of AHRQ’s formation of special advisory committees to address priority issues, Cygnus provided logistical and writing services for both the Council on Private Sector Initiatives to Improve the Security, Safety, and Quality of Health Care and the Health Disparities Advisory Committee.

Meetings of Project Directors

Cygnus supported a number of various project director and principal investigator (i.e., AHRQ grantees) meetings under this contract. The 2-day meetings typically involved 60–125 participants and focused on the transfer of critical information (program overviews, project updates, new funding opportunities, subcommittee work, and deciding future directions) and networking. Topics included health care quality improvement, domestic violence, building minority research capacity, systems-related best practices, practice-based research networks, and translating research into practice. Travel, premeeting, onsite, and postmeeting logistics were part of these assignments. Detailed meeting summaries were provided and included action items for future attention by the project directors and AHRQ. Cygnus also supported meetings through the development of briefing materials.

Proposal Review Meetings

Cygnus supported nearly 20 peer review meetings for AHRQ procurements (through November 2004). Most of the peer reviewers were not from the local area, and we arranged airline transportation, local transfers, and lodging for the nonlocal peer reviewers; reimbursed the expenses and honoraria of all peer reviewers; provided a notetaker at all of the meetings; prepared specialized research support and reports for presentation; and provided summary reports of the proceedings, including reviewer findings and comments and consensus scores of proposals determined by the panels. Brief descriptions of each of these peer review meetings follow.

  • Survey Users Network Procurement: 1-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers, 4 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Exhibit Logistics Support Procurement: 1-day meeting, 4 peer reviewers, 3 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • National Electronic Web-based Morbidity and Mortality Conference Site Procurement: 1-day meeting; 4 peer reviewers, all were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • HIV Research Network Procurement: 1-day meeting; 3 peer reviewers, all were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • National Quality Measurement Clearinghouse Procurement: 1-day meeting; 4 peer reviewers, all were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Small Business Innovative Research Program Phase II (2002) Procurement: 1-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers, all were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Support for Quality Indicators Procurement: Teleconference; 3 peer reviewers and Agency and Cygnus facilitators.
  • Evidence-based Practice Center Procurement: 2-day meeting; 10 peer reviewers, 7 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Procurement: 1-day meeting; 7 peer reviewers, 6 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Practice-based Research Network Resource Center Procurement: 1-day meeting; 7 peer reviewers, 5 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Evidence-based Practice Center Coordinating Center Procurement: 1-day meeting; 7 peer reviewers, 6 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Patient Safety Program Evaluation Center Procurement: 1-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers, all were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area with 1 international participant.
  • Patient Safety Research Program Database Procurement: 2-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers, 4 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Small Business Innovative Research Program Phase II (2003) Procurement: 1-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers, 4 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Communication Support Contract Procurement: 1-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers from the D.C. metro area.
  • Knowledge Transfer Support Procurement: 2-day meeting; 5 peer reviewers, 4 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Health IT Resource Center (HITRC) Contract Proposal Review: 1-day meeting; 7 peer reviewers, 4 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • PSNet Review Meeting: 1-day meeting; 6 reviewers, 2 were traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.
  • Logistical Support for the Review of Contract Proposals: 1-day meeting; 5 reviewers, 1 was traveled from outside the D.C. metro area.

Subscribe to our newsletter: