Hospitals improve in 17 quality measures, narrow racial inequality in care

Hospitals have improved on 17 care quality measures, and provide better and more equitable care for blacks and Hispanics for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers, led by Amal N. Trivedi, M.D., of Brown University, assessed six quality measures for acute myocardial infarction, four measures for heart failure and seven measures for pneumonia, adjusting for patient- and hospital-level covariates and comparing rates among white, black and Hispanic acute-care hospital patients who received care between 2005 and 2010. 

Trivedia and his team found improvements on all 17 measures of between 3.4 and 57.6 percentage points across racial groups, as well as reduced disparities among them, which the authors attributed to improved equity of care among white and minority patients treated in the same hospital, along with improved performance in hospitals with a predominantly minority patient base.

Co-author Michael Fine, M.D, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, said in a study announcement that the results, while encouraging, do not speak to outcomes achieved.

"It is heartening that we found higher quality of care overall and large reductions in racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare for patients with these common conditions," he said.. "However, it is critically important to demonstrate that these improvements in care are accompanied by better patient outcomes. Future studies are needed to investigate if racial and ethnic disparities in mortality have also decreased over time," he added.

Meanwhile, hospitals can take several steps to increase care equity and combat healthcare disparities among minority populations, including training staff in cross-culture care and creating strategic plans for addressing such disparities, according to FierceHealthcare. A May report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found hospitals improved on three quarters of care quality measures, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"Hospitals are clearly engaged in efforts to improve healthcare quality in the United States," said AHRQ Director Richard Kronick, Ph.D. "The intense national focus on quality improvement in hospitals is starting to pay off, but much work remains to make sure that all Americans have access to high-quality care in every setting."

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the announcement