Press Release: US Healthcare Quality Movement Stalls at a Critical Juncture
US Healthcare Quality Movement Stalls at a Critical Juncture, Finds PricewaterhouseCoopers Report PwC Calls for National Standards, Urges Industry to Lead Efforts WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 -- In a study of more than 60 of the nation's most influential healthcare leaders released today, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the quality of the US healthcare system is not what it should be and is not likely to change within the next three to five years. A landmark report on healthcare quality by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute concludes that after two decades of efforts to improve the quality of healthcare, momentum has stalled at a critical juncture. The analysis finds healthcare organizations are confused by multiple quality mandates and frustrated by mounting requirements for quality performance reporting in the absence of government standards or industry consensus. Citing its report, PricewaterhouseCoopers called on the healthcare industry to come together to develop common standards and procedures around quality. It warned that failure to act now puts the sustainability of the US healthcare system and the nation's economic competitiveness at risk. The safety and quality of healthcare is of growing concern to the US because health status and national productivity are directly linked. Healthcare quality has been a source of concern to the US, which spends the most per capita on healthcare in the world yet ranks lowest among developed countries on the most basic measures of health status such as life expectancy at birth and infant mortality. Nearly 100,000 hospital patients die annually -- 274 people a day -- because of preventable medical errors, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. President Bush issued an Executive Order late last year directing federal agencies to provide health care quality and price information for consumers. "We are losing the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of patients every day due to preventable medical errors," said Jim Henry, global industry leader for the healthcare practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "There is an urgent need to change that pattern, and change it now. There is a lot of work being done on quality, but health organizations are still working in silos at cross purposes, and they are as far apart on quality today as they were five years ago. It is time for action and collaboration." For its part, PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced five concrete steps it is taking to jumpstart progress in the quality movement: 1. PwC has just published a book, "The Quality Conundrum: Practical Approaches for Enhancing Patient Care," which provides a 360-degree view on the quality issue. The book, produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute, is a compilation of interviews and essays from health quality leaders and provides a path for improving the quality of care from the perspectives of patients, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, drug makers and policy leaders. "Quality Conundrum" is now available through the publisher, Cornerstone 1 Media. Additional information can be found at pwc.com/qualityconundrum. 2. Facilitate a market-level initiative that brings together commercial health insurance payers with hospitals and physicians in a single metropolitan city to reach consensus on quality measures and to track the impact of computerized physician order entry on quality improvements. 3. Foster cross-industry collaboration and dialogue by establishing an elite thought leadership and networking group of health industry leaders representing payers, providers, employers, consumer advocates, pharmaceutical companies and life sciences firms. This group, with support from PwC, has agreed to transcend historical boundaries and work together to create a sustainable healthcare system, and has committed to piloting quality initiatives. 4. PwC is researching the impact of investments in health information technology, including electronic medical records, designed to improve the quality of patient care. 5. Participate in the World Economic Forum's Working Towards Wellness Initiative, a world-wide effort to stimulate greater business engagement in the fight against chronic disease through employee wellness programs. As part of this, PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a worldwide survey on Workplace Wellness in conjunction with the World Economic Forum. "Real improvements in the quality of healthcare will occur only after incentives are properly aligned around creating value, and performance can be rewarded appropriately," said David Chin, MD, partner and leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute. "But quality is a conundrum because you cannot improve what you cannot measure, and you cannot measure what you cannot define. What's clear is that organizations can no longer stick their heads in the sand. Hospitals and physicians without a quality strategy will find their revenue and reputations at risk." About the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute provides new intelligence, perspective and analysis on trends affecting all health-related industries, including healthcare providers, pharmaceuticals, health and life sciences and payers. The Institute is part of PricewaterhouseCoopers' larger initiative for the health-related industries that brings together expertise and allows collaboration across all sectors in the health continuum. About PricewaterhouseCoopers PricewaterhouseCoopers (www.pwc.com) provides industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to build public trust and enhance value for its clients and their stakeholders. More than 140,000 people in 149 countries across our network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice. "PricewaterhouseCoopers" refers to the network of member firms of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, each of which is a separate and independent legal entity.