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As we head into the holiday weekend, some good news on the hospital quality front: According to a pair of new national reports from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospitals have shown significant improvement on a large number of quality measures. Apparently, in fact, “[h]ospitals are leading the movement to improve the quality of care delivered to U.S. patients, outpacing improvements in other settings,” according to an AHRQ press release announcing the reports.
That said, AHRQ’s overall assessment, which included not just hospitals but doctor’s offices, nursing homes and home health, was that “quality of health care in America is only fair,” according to the reports. “On average, in 2010, Americans received 70% of indicated health care services and failed to receive 30% of the care they needed to treat or prevent particular medical conditions. The gap between best possible care and what is routinely delivered remains substantial across the Nation.”
And that’s not the only bad news. According to the release, “The reports also found deficiencies regarding health care access, with 26 percent of Americans (especially racial and ethnic minorities and low-income people) reporting difficulties getting care.”
But for hospitals at least, the reports have plenty of silver linings, with evidence of quality improvement on a host of measures.
Interestingly, the reports even float the idea that the Hospital Compare site might have had some positive effect: “Fourteen of the 16 quality measures that reached a 95 percent performance level were publicly reported by CMS. Another four CMS measures are among those improving at the fastest pace,” according to the release.
It’s worth noting that the data isn’t brand new, with most of it covering the periods 2000-2002 to 2010-2011. As such, “the reports provide a snapshot of health care prior to implementation of most of the health insurance expansions and consumer protections included in the Affordable Care Act and serve as a baseline against which to track progress in upcoming years.”
I’ll be particularly interested to see whether – and to what extent – ACA reforms affect those numbers on access to care.