Answers to Questions About OECR

Answers to Questions About OECR

A: The Office of Emergency Care Research (OECR) is a focal point for clinical and translational emergency care research and training across NIH. Its mission is to help improve the health outcomes of patients who require emergency care.

Although OECR does not fund grants, it fosters innovation and improvement in emergency care and in the training of future researchers in this field by:

  • Coordinating funding opportunities that involve multiple NIH institutes and centers.
  • Working closely with the NIH Emergency Care Research Working Group, which includes representatives from many NIH institutes and centers.
  • Organizing scientific meetings to identify new research and training opportunities in emergency settings.
  • Catalyzing the development of new funding opportunities and informing investigators about funding opportunities in their areas of interest.
  • Identifying and addressing areas in which more research is needed, such as health services provided to patients in the pre- hospital setting, emergency department or intensive care unit; and medical issues that, while not time-critical, are best studied in the emergency care setting.
  • Fostering career development for trainees in emergency care research.
  • Representing NIH in government-wide efforts to improve the nation's emergency care system.

A: The creation of OECR was announced in July 2012. It was a culmination of more than 5 years of discussions between NIH and the emergency medicine community. The initial impetus for these conversations was three reports by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2006. 

The OECR History page contains additional details, links to the IOM reports, and information about NIH's response—the creation of a task force, the request for information from the emergency care community, the launch of roundtable discussions and the publication of four articles in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

A:  Emergency care includes a wide variety of conditions, only some of which are life-threatening. These life-threatening conditions include heart attacks, strokes, traumatic injuries, burns, allergic reactions, fractures, infections, drug  overdoses, bleeding, asthma attacks, poisoning, and psychiatric crises.  Because of the way that the practice of primary care medicine has changed, emergency physicians are now involved in admitting about half of all hopitalized patients in the US.   But emergency medical services also deliver care for a larger number of conditions that do not require hospitalization and are not immediately life-threatening, but for which patients seek medical attention. These may be as simple as a prescription refill or the evaluation of a worsening chronic condition. As many as 80% of patients who visit an ED do so simply because they cannot access other medical providers.

A: Emergency departments handle an enormous number of patients, many of which are the sickest and most vulnerable in the health care system. Consider these statistics:

  • There are over 130 million visits to emergency departments in the U.S. each year. Other than pregnant women admitted for labor and delivery, more hospital patients are admitted through the emergency department than through any other department.
  • Half of all patients in the intensive care unit are admitted from the emergency department.
  • Emergency departments provide care to patients who are unable to receive treatment from their primary care providers or perceive they have no other source of medical care.

A: Many NIH institutes support research that is focused on specific organs, diseases or populations (for example children or the elderly). Patients in the emergency department present with a wide spectrum of diseases—or a collection of symptoms rather than a definitive diagnosis—and can come from any population. For these reasons, research in emergency care cuts across traditional research boundaries within the NIH organizational structure.

A: The OECR director will work closely with other parts of the Federal Government and will represent NIH in regular meetings with these partners. For example, the OECR director will serve on the Council on Emergency Medical Care, which promotes synergy across the government to improve the nation's emergency care system. The Office also works closely with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedenss and Response (ASPR).

A: Jeremy Brown, M.D., became the first permanent director of OECR in July 2013.