AHRQ report: Health disparities continue

No one expects the wrongs of millennia to be righted overnight, but it seems as if not a lot has changed every year when the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) releases its annual report on healthcare disparities. If you are poor or a racial or ethnic minority, you are still less likely to have appropriate access to the healthcare you need when you need it.

The good news? Quality is improving, even as access gets worse and disparities stagnate.

Over all, the report — using data from 2002-2009 — shows that we get the right treatment just 70% of the time, and a quarter of us say we face some barrier to getting care, whether financial or otherwise.

There are some bright spots: Surgical patients get the right care and antibiotics, and hospital patients get their pneumonia and flu screenings and shots when appropriate.

Patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes need to get better care. If you were 40 or older with diabetes, you had a less than one-in-four chance of getting all four of the recommended services for your condition — at least two blood tests, an eye exam, a foot exam, and a flu shot. It was even worse if you were African-American or Hispanic and had diabetes.

Those two minorities received worse care on about 40% of the quality measures, and African-Americans had worse access to care on a third of the measures. Hispanics fared worse still, with worse access to care on 70% of the measures.

The report includes new measures related to hospital acquired conditions, as well as measures related to prenatal care, colorectal cancer screening, and patient safety culture in the hospital.

The full report is available at http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/nhqrdr/index.html.