Report: Hospital care quality improves

Hospitals improved in 75 percent of care quality measures, according to a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The AHRQ credits several initiatives for the improvement efforts, including, the Department of Health and Human Services' Partnership for Patients initiative, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program and Hospital Outpatient Quality Reporting Program, and various private sector initiatives, according to an AHRQ statement.

"Hospitals are clearly engaged in efforts to improve healthcare quality in the United States," AHRQ Director Richard Kronick, Ph.D., said in the statement. "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."

Public reporting of quality measures may also play a factor in the improvements. Of the 16 quality measures that achieved a 95 percent performance level, 14 were publicly reported by CMS, and four more CMS measures are among those improving fastest, according to the report. Seventy percent of publicly reported CMS measures that weren't retired or removed show improvement over time.

Despite the positive news, disparities in healthcare persist, according to the AHRQ's 2013 National Healthcare Disparities Report. More than one-quarter of Americans report difficulties getting care, particularly low-income or racial and ethnic minorities. Most quality disparities relating to income, ethnicity or race showed no major changes, but more disparities improved than worsened for Hispanics, Asians, blacks and low-income people, according to the report.

Hospitals made progress on hospital-acquired infections, according to the AHRQ, a finding consistent with previous reports. Care quality is also on the rise for HIV treatment measures, colon cancer surgical care and adolescent vaccination, while quality worsened for measures relating to diabetes checkups, maternal deaths and delivery, Pap smears and preventive care for asthmatic patients, according to the report.

To learn more:
- here's the quality report (.pdf)
- read the disparities report
- read the statement