Healthcare Business News

Reports find quality gains, lingering disparities

By Maureen McKinney
Posted: February 28, 2011 - 2:30 pm ET

Although overall quality has improved somewhat, there has been little change in the racial, ethnic and socio-economic disparities that limit healthcare delivery, according to reports released by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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According to the 2010 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report, which are issued annually by AHRQ, quality in 2010 continued to improve at the gradual rate—2.3%—seen in recent years. That figure is based on data from more than 200 healthcare quality measures in areas such as patient safety, care coordination and efficiency, according to AHRQ. Particular gains were seen in certain acute-care measures, as well as in preventive-health measures such as immunizations.

“All Americans should have access to high-quality, appropriate and safe healthcare that helps them achieve the best possible health, and these reports show that we are making very slow progress toward that goal,” AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy said in a news release.

The healthcare system made very little, if any, progress, however, in reducing variations and improving access to care, AHRQ found. Racial and ethnic minorities received worse care than whites for roughly 40% of core measures. And low-income patients received lower-quality care than high-income people for 80% of core measures.

“Of the 22 measures of access to healthcare services tracked in the reports, about 60% did not show improvement, and 40% worsened,” AHRQ said in the release.

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