New Report: Despite System’s Ills, The Quality Of Care Has Improved

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the third year in a row, health care quality for millions of Americans improved substantially, despite broad public concerns over cost, the uninsured, patient safety, and other system-wide ills.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance’s State of Health Care Quality report documented significant improvements in clinical performance on more than a dozen key measures among selected health plans serving Medicare, Medicaid, and commercially insured populations. The report also found that despite these improvements, more than 6,000 deaths and 22 million sick days could be avoided annually if the “best-practice” care found at the nation’s top organizations was adopted universally.

“This year, 13 health plans delivered beta blockers to 100{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of patients who had a heart attack — that’s the payoff for measuring quality,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “But we have work to do; a large part of the health care system still doesn’t measure anything.”

Among the positive findings in this year’s report were substantial gains on a range of clinical measures reported by commercial health plans. For example, between 2000 and 2002. the percentage of patients who had their high blood pressure under control rose from 51.5{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} to 55.4{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}. In 1999, the rate was 39{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}. Meanwhile, cholesterol control rates have registered similar increases. Among commercial managed care organizations, 59.3{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of heart attack patients had their cholesterol under control in 2001, nearly a 6-percentage-point increase from the previous year, and up 14 percentage points from 1999 levels.

The State of Health Care Quality report is available on NCQA’s Web site:

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