The quality of U.S. healthcare could be much better despite recent improvements, and racial, ethnic and economic disparities remain prevalent, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Nevertheless, providers have made improvements at a steady rate in recent years on 42 key performance measures, AHRQ said in its fourth annual report on quality. The 2006 report showed a 3.1% improvement in healthcare quality overall based on the indicators, and hospitals achieved a 7.8% improvement. Nursing homes lagged -- boosting their quality scores 1% -- while ambulatory-care providers made a gain of 3.2%. AHRQ said it used the latest data available from a variety of sources. Read the report.
In a separate report on healthcare disparities, AHRQ said blacks received worse care than whites on 73% of the measures and Hispanics received worse care on 77% of the measures. Low-income patients, meanwhile, received worse care than high-income patients on 71% of the measures. Variations were particularly apparent in the area of prevention. Read the report. -- by Andis Robeznieks