USA: Modest health care quality gains outpaced by spending

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 18 July 2008

Keywords

Citation

(2008), "USA: Modest health care quality gains outpaced by spending", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 21 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijhcqa.2008.06221eab.004

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


USA: Modest health care quality gains outpaced by spending

Article Type: News and views From: International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Volume 21, Issue 5

Keywords: Quality improvement, Healthcare access, Value for money

The quality of health care improved by an average 2.3 percent a year between 1994 and 2005, a rate that reflects some important advances but points to an overall slowing in quality gains, according to annual reports released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The improvement rate, reported in AHRQ’s 2007 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report, is lower than the 3.1 percent average annual improvement rate reported in the 2006 reports. Those reports measured trends between 1994 and 2004.

Quality improvement rates are lower than widely documented increases in health care spending. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate health care expenditures rose by a 6.7 percent average annual rate over the same period. The 2007 reports – the fifth editions since the reports’ inaugural release in 2003 – show some notable gains, such as improvements in the care of heart disease patients. When measuring what portion of heart attack patients received recommended tests, medications, or counseling to quit smoking, the reports found an average 5.6 percent annual improvement rate from 2002 to 2005. Measures of patient safety showed an average annual improvement of just 1 percent. That modest improvement rate reflected such measures as what portion of elderly patients had been given potentially harmful prescription drugs and how many patients developed post-surgery complications.

The reports also showed some reductions in disparities of care according to race, ethnicity, and income. For example, while Hispanics remain more likely than whites to get delayed care or no care at all for an illness, that disparity decreased between 2000 to 2001 and 2004 to 2005. In addition, while black children between 19 and 35 months old remain less likely than white children to receive all recommended vaccines that disparity also decreased.

Overall, however, many of the largest disparities remain. Black children under 18 are 3.8 times more likely than white children to be hospitalized for asthma. New AIDS cases are 3.5 times more likely among Hispanics than whites. Among pregnant women, American Indians or Alaska natives are 2.1 times less likely to receive first trimester prenatal care.

For more information: www.ahrq.gov