Healthcare Quality Improving Slowly; Disparities in Access to Care Persist

Improvements in healthcare quality continue to progress at a slow rate—about 2.3% a year; however, disparities based on race, ethnicity, and other factors persist at “unacceptably high levels,” according to two new reports from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The 2010 “National Healthcare Quality Report” and “National Healthcare Disparities Report,” issued today, are based on more than 200 healthcare measures categorized in several areas of quality: effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, patient-centeredness, care coordination, efficiency, health system infrastructure, and access.

“All Americans should have access to high-quality, appropriate, and safe healthcare that helps them achieve the best possible health, and these reports show that we are making very slow progress toward that goal,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, in a release. “We need to ramp up our overall efforts to improve quality and focus specific attention on areas that need the greatest improvement.”

Gains in healthcare quality were seen in a number of areas, with the highest rates of improvement in measures related to treatment of acute illnesses or injuries.

The reports, which are mandated by Congress, also indicate that few disparities in quality of care are getting smaller, and almost no disparities in access to care are getting smaller. Overall, blacks, American Indians, and Alaska Natives received worse care than whites for about 40% of core measures. Asians received worse care than whites for about 20% of core measures. And Hispanics received worse care than whites for about 60% of core measures.

Poor people received worse care than high-income people for about 80% of core measures.

Of the 22 measures of access to healthcare services tracked in the reports, about 60% did not show improvement, and 40% worsened.

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National Healthcare Quality Report (PDF format)

National Healthcare Disparities Report

(PDF format)

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