A first-of-its-kind HHS report on health quality in the U.S. does not ignore or play down ongoing problems in the industry, an agency spokesman said today. The report published yesterday by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded that although the quality of care in the U.S. continues to get better, there's plenty of room for improvement and many still miss out on life-saving treatments and preventive care. An accompanying report on disparities in quality among minorities and low-income patients was reported in yesterday's Daily Dose. To paint a rosier picture of health quality than might actually be the case, reviewers at HHS toned down controversial sections of the report, or those that made quality deficiencies appear less ominous, according to a Wall Street Journal report. An HHS spokesman disputed that was the case, arguing that the agency's report, which has been in the works for a year, was released the week of Christmas "because it was done" and not to play down any of its contents.
"It's a relatively straightforward report," the spokesman said. "The data is the data." Any changes that were made during the review process, according to the spokesman, were to make the report more readable to the general public. Among the report's findings: 69% of heart attack patients receive recommended beta-blockers at admission, and 79% are prescribed the therapy at discharge. Roughly 59% of adults surveyed indicated that their healthcare provider always explains things clearly to them. HHS plans to publish the National Healthcare Quality Report every year. Read the quality reports here. -- by Jeff Tieman