Tuesday, July 7, 2009

State Reports Reveal Wide Variation in Health Care Quality

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released its annual set of reports detailing state-by-state health care quality, finding that there are "mixed reviews" for the quality of care being provided, with no states performing exceptionally well or very poorly on all quality measures, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Created from state-level data that was originally used to draft the 2008 National Healthcare Quality Report released by HHS in May, these state snapshots draw from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities and health care organizations. The reports summarize care quality in three dimensions: type of care, care setting and clinical area, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, maternal and child health and respiratory disease. The snapshots allow users to compare the care quality provided in states in the same region as well as compare state performance against the national average. For the first time, the 2008 reports include a section examining asthma rates—including data on potentially preventable hospitalizations—as well as an expanded focus on care disparities that includes new information on diabetes prevalence. Noting that there remains much room for improvement, the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reports that Wisconsin, Minnesota and Massachusetts scored highest in the nation for all measures in overall health care. For Massachusetts, specifically, the strongest measures included the proportion of hospital patients with heart attacks who received a beta blocker within 24 hours of admission and the percentage of women older than age 40 who receive mammograms, among other measures. However, Massachusetts' weakest measure was for selected infections because of medical care per 1,000 medical and surgical discharges, with the state performing below the national average. Meanwhile, HHS also recently released its own series of state-specific reports on the health care status quo, which highlighted "the urgent need for health reform across the nation." The reports include information on care cost and quality and show that, while the cost of health care is rising, the quality of care is decreasing. Specifically, the reports examine metrics such as the percent increase in family premiums since 2000; the "hidden tax" that insured individuals and families pay to subsidize care for the uninsured; the overall quality ratings for health care in each state; and the impact of failing to adequately invest in preventive health measures. Noting that the reports provide a "clear demonstration that there are problems with health care in every state," HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius added that "we cannot wait to pass reform that protects what works about health care and fixes what's broken." (Twedt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/27/09; Wall Street Journal Health Blog, 6/26/09; HHS release, 6/26/09; AHRQ release, 6/26/09; AHRQ Web site).

Copyright 2009 The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation http://www.rwjf.org The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care.

No comments:

Post a Comment