Health Care Quality Gaps and Disparities Persist in Every State

Research Activities, July 2011, No. 371

States are seeing improvements in health care quality, but disparities for their minority and low-income residents persist, according to the 2010 State Snapshots, released in June by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

New Hampshire, Minnesota, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island showed the greatest overall performance improvement in 2010. The five States with the smallest overall performance improvement were Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. As in previous years, AHRQ's 2010 State Snapshots show that no State does well or poorly on all quality measures.

Among minority and low-income Americans, the level of health care quality and access to services remained unfavorable. The size of disparities related to race and income varied widely across the States. "Every American should have access to high-quality, appropriate, and safe health care, and we need to increase our efforts to achieve that goal because our slow progress is not acceptable," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "These AHRQ 2010 State Snapshots not only provide States with a benchmark on how they are doing in these areas, but they also provide resources that States can use to make improvements."

AHRQ State Snapshots promotional image of U.S. map

The 2010 State Snapshots, an interactive Web-based tool, show whether a State has improved or worsened on specific health-care quality measures. For each State and the District of Columbia, this tool features an individual performance summary of more than 100 measures, such as preventing pressure sores, screening for diabetes-related foot problems, and giving recommended care to pneumonia patients. It also compares each State to others in its region and the Nation. Easy-to-read data charts indicate current strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement for each State. Health leaders, insurers, providers, researchers, and consumers can use the State Snapshots data to examine the extent of health care quality and disparities in their States and take steps to address gaps in quality care and access to services.

The 2010 State Snapshots summarize health care data by:

Overall health care quality

  • Type of care (preventive, acute, and chronic).
  • Treatment setting (hospital, ambulatory care, nursing home, and home health).
  • Five clinical conditions (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, maternal and child health, and respiratory diseases).
  • Strongest and weakest quality measures, as compared with other States.

A new feature this year is a State Resource Directory that provides tools and information on assessing quality measures and disparities data that States can use to develop their own health care quality and disparities measures. Also available are direct links to AHRQ's Health Care Innovations Exchange, a searchable database in which users can find information and resources on evidence-based innovations that others in their States have used to improve care. Other highlights include special focus areas on diabetes, asthma, clinical preventive services, disparities, and health coverage status and variations over time.

The 2010 State Snapshots are based on data from the 2010 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report, which are mandated by Congress and produced annually by AHRQ. Data are drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities, and health care organizations. To access the 2010 State Snapshots, go to http://nhqrnet.ahrq.gov/inhqrdr/state/select.

Current as of July 2011
Internet Citation: Health Care Quality Gaps and Disparities Persist in Every State: Research Activities, July 2011, No. 371. July 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jul11/0711RA1.html