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Major Gains in Health Care Quality-But For Only One-Quarter of System

Published: Monday, October 4, 2004 - 21:00

The U.S. health care system has huge quality gaps that contribute to 42,000 to 79,000 avoidable deaths every year, according to a recent survey released by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

“State of Health Care Quality 2004,” released on Sept. 23, found that the quality of care delivered by health plans improved markedly from last year. But it also indicates that, because those improvements were applied to only one-quarter of the system, health care is deeply polarized and delivers excellent care to some people and generally poor care to others.

“The data we have tell a great story—health care quality for some is improving consistently and dramatically,” says Margaret E. O’Kane, NCQA president. “But we have only data for accountable health plans. Why don’t we have performance data for the other 75 percent of the U.S. health care system? All types of health plans, hospitals and doctors should report on their performance. How else can we made informed choices?”

This year’s report also highlights various efforts aimed at improving health care quality, including several physician and hospital pay-for-performance projects, which are seen by many experts as a key part of the solution to the country’s health care problems.

“Measuring performance allows us to do three very important things: inform consumer choice, reward quality and identify opportunities for improvement,” says Mark McClellan, M.D., and administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “There is enormous potential in these activities to drive improvement and without measurement you can’t do any of them. Medicare is 100 percent committed to pay-for-performance.”

To see the report in its entirety, visit www.ncqa.org.


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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.