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Modest Health Care Quality Gains Outpaced by Spending
Date:3/3/2008

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The quality of health care improved by an average 2.3 percent a year between 1994 and 2005, a rate that reflects some important advances but points to an overall slowing in quality gains, according to annual reports released today by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The improvement rate, reported in AHRQ's 2007 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report, is lower than the 3.1 percent average annual improvement rate reported in the 2006 reports. Those reports measured trends between 1994 and 2004.

Quality improvement rates are lower than widely documented increases in health care spending. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimate health care expenditures rose by a 6.7 percent average annual rate over the same period.

"Health care quality is improving only modestly, at best," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "Given that health care spending is rising much faster, these findings about quality underscore the urgency to improve the value Americans are getting for their health care dollars."

Each year, AHRQ's companion Quality and Disparities reports update national trends in the delivery of health care. The analyses measure quality and disparities in four areas: effectiveness of care, patient safety, timeliness of care and patient centeredness.

The 2007 reports -- the 5th edition since the reports' inaugural release in 2003 -- show some notable gains, such as improvements in the care of heart disease patients. When measuring what portion of heart attack patients received recommended tests, medications or counseling to quit smoking, the reports found an average 5.6 percent annual improvement rate from 2002 to 2005.

Measures of patient safety, meanwhile, showed an average annual improvement of just 1 percent. That modest improvement rate reflected such measures as what portion of elderly pat
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SOURCE Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality
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