“(These infections) increase hospitalizations, require extensive treatment and add considerable and avoidable costs to the healthcare system,” O'Kane said in a call with reporters.
Though antibiotic use was seen as a cause for concern, the accreditation organization celebrated other quality gains, including continued improvement in childhood obesity, as tracked in its State of Health Care Quality Report 2013. Released Wednesday, the report examined 40 Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set quality measures across 1,151 health plans that together cover more than 136 million Americans. The number of plans participating was up from 1,057 a year ago.
“We know more about the quality of U.S. healthcare than ever before,” O'Kane said.
The analysis revealed mixed results on childhood immunizations, with more children enrolled in Medicaid getting immunized against influenza and rotavirus. Vaccination rates among children in commercial plans, however, have not recovered from a drop noted in 2009 after reaching a high point in 2008. O'Kane blamed “urban legends that vaccines cause autism” for leading to outbreaks of “totally preventable illnesses” and recommended that doctors have serious conversations with parents about the issue.
That could be made easier, according to the report, because more Medicaid enrollees say that they are happy with the doctors in their plans. Respondents were asked to rate their personal doctor with 0 equaling worst possible and 10 equaling best possible; 63.1% of Medicaid HMO members gave their doctor a rating of 9 or 10, which O'Kane saw as reason for optimism.
“Patients with better experiences are more likely to be engaged with their care, and they do have better health outcomes,” she said.
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