Quality of Medical Care Improves for Most Americans

A recent study highlighted the improving areas of medical care in the United States. Released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the study tracked seven main criteria related to healthcare between 2000 and 2014 – person-centered care, patient safety, healthy living, effective treatment, care coordination, and affordable care.

Here is the breakdown on how America’s healthcare system changed according to each of the metrics:

  1. Person-Centered Care. The study defined “person-centered care” as whether or not a patient achieves their healthcare outcomes, not merely whether a disease has been effectively treated or managed. Overall, the trend for this metric has markedly improved since 2000. A full 83 percent of patients who had visited a doctor in the last 12 months reported improvement in person-centered care. Perhaps as important, none of the patients indicated their care “worsened” on this metric during the fourteen-year period.
  1. Patient Safety. Keeping a patient safe while in a hospital or doctor’s office also saw an improvement during the study. Overall 66 percent of patients reported an improvement in this metric, which reflects broader trends of data available in this area. Between 2008 to 2014, the number of infections related to a central venous catheter dropped from 1.9 per 1,000 patients to 0.67 per 1,0000. Similar improvements in patients receiving hip joint replacement surgeries. In 2009 a full 16.4 percent of Americans undergoing this notoriously tricky procedure reported “adverse effects”, a number that dropped to 9.8 percent by 2014.

  1. Healthy Living. The “Healthy Living” metric in this study focuses on measures that “help individuals maintain healthy lifestyles” including the availability of preventative healthcare, palliative care, and maternal and childcare. Overall, 61 percent of the study’s participants reported an improvement on this metric. This self-reported result fits with more granular data cited by the study. The number of adolescents who received a meningitis vaccine improved from 39 percent to 79 percent between 2008 and 2014. There was no statistically significant increase in influenza, or flu, vaccines. Notably, no statistically significant increase in child or women’s healthcare were reported, either. Further, childhood obesity increased from 16 percent to 21 percent between 2002 and 2014. Overall, 7 percent of the study participants reported their healthcare “worsened” in this area.

 

  1. Effective Treatment. The metric for effective treatment measures whether a person’s disease or illness is treated with the best results possible, and consequences minimized to the best extent possible. More than half of the metrics in this area improved, however these improving results were not shared equally. Americans with diabetes, drug problems, or alcohol problems saw a marked decrease in their quality of care.

 

  1. Care Coordination. In response to the overwhelmingly complex medical system, this metric shows whether key information is available (and utilized) by various healthcare professionals. Overall, this area saw less improvement than other areas measured by the study – with a 25 percent decline or “worsening” result in care coordination. As an example, the study cites that avoidable emergency room visits for hypertension have markedly increased in recent years – from 46.1 per 100,000 visits in 2000 to 54.2 in 2014, a mere fourteen years later.

 

  1. Affordability. Affordable healthcare remains the metric with the least improvement in the study. Only 14 percent, or one out of seven quality metrics, improved throughout the study. This is likely to be unsurprising to most Americans – the study reports that premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, and deductibles have all increased between 2000 and 2014. Currently, out-of-pocket medical expenses constitute 10 percent of the average family’s income.
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