It makes a difference in people's lives when a patient suffering from a heart attack is given the correct lifesaving treatment in a timely fashion; when medications are correctly administered; and when doctors listen to patients and their families, show them respect, and answer their questions in a culturally and linguistically skilled manner. All Americans should have access to quality care that helps them achieve the best possible health.
With the publication of the eighth National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR), AHRQ stands ready to contribute to efforts that encourage and support the development of national, State, tribal, and "neighborhood" solutions using national data and achievable benchmarks of care.
The reports underscore the need to accelerate progress if the Nation is to achieve higher quality and more equitable health care in the near future. They show that health care quality and access are suboptimal, especially for minority and low-income groups. These barriers to care and continued disparities in care come at a personal and societal price.
The reports reveal that urgent attention is needed to ensure improved quality and reduced disparities in certain services, geographic areas, and populations, including:
- Cancer screening and management of diabetes.
- States in the central part of the country.
- Residents of inner-city and rural areas.
- Disparities in preventive services and access to care.
The reports also show uneven progress in eight national priority areas. Two areas, palliative care and patient and family engagement, are improving in quality. Population health, safety, and care access are lagging. Care coordination, overuse of care, and health system infrastructure require more data to assess. All eight priority areas show disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
The NHQR and NHDR identify areas where novel strategies have made a difference in improving patients' quality of life, as well as many areas where much more should be done. Future reports will track the success of the National Health Care Quality Strategy, the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, and the National Plan for Action To End Health Disparities.
Information needs to be shared with partners who have the skills and commitment to change health care. Building on data in the NHQR, NHDR, and State Snapshots (http://statesnapshots.ahrq.gov), we believe that stakeholders can design and target strategies and clinical interventions to ensure that all patients receive the high-quality care needed to make their lives better.
Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.
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