AHRQ Report Finds Overall Health Care Quality Has Improved, but Disparities Remain

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Health care quality continues to improve each year, but gains remain uneven among minorities, according to a recent report.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently released its National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, which serves as an annual report card on the status of the country’s health care.

The findings are based on more than 250 measures of quality and disparities, covering a broad range of health care services and settings. When compiling the data, AHRQ considered factors like patient safety, person-centered care, care coordination, effective treatment, healthy living and care affordability.

With about 80 percent of quality measures improved, person-centered care scores have continued to rise, indicating that communication between doctors and patients is improving.

Additionally, two-thirds of patient safety measures have improved. For instance, there have been significant reductions in complications among hospital patients taking anticoagulants other than warfarin.

The report makes it clear that vulnerable populations still lack access to quality care. Similar to previous years, the report found that quality of care was often uneven when measured among racial, ethnic and income groups.

However, health care access did improve among some minority groups. For instance, disparities in quality and access to care among Blacks and Hispanics declined in about 20 percent of measures.

In a blog post, Dr. Sharon Arnold, deputy director of AHRQ, outlines how disparities have widened in others areas.

“Visits to emergency departments for mental health care, for example, increased significantly among the poor—from about 1,400 per 100,000 in 2007 to nearly 2,000 per 100,000 in 2014. That increase was nearly double the change in such visits among high-income adults during the same period.”

As a companion to the report, AHRQ provided new data on dozens of safety measures on the Chartbook on Patient Safety, including the rate of central line-associated bloodstream infections, which decreased by more than 40 percent between 2009 and 2014.

For a more detailed overview of the report’s research findings, visit AHRQ’s website.