Statement from Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis on The State of Health Care Quality: 2006, released September 27 by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA)
NCQA's 2006 State of Health Care Quality report demonstrates the continued importance of measurement and public reporting on improving the quality of health care, and it reinforces the urgent need to apply such measurement to the entire American health system.
The report, NCQA's 10th annual analysis of U.S. health care quality, underscores several important themes described in this month's National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance, released by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System:
- NCQA reports a seventh year of improvement on many key measures of clinical care—35 out of 42 measures—among health plans that report their quality data. Given the Commission's findings that average U.S. performance trails national and international benchmarks considerably, this kind of improvement pattern is welcome news indeed. NCQA reports that even a 2 percent increase in hypertension control rates means that 82,000 more Americans have their blood pressure at acceptable levels, with resulting decreases in associated heart disease and stroke.
- Given that NCQA has established a clear link between public reporting and quality improvement, the fact that more than 80 preferred provider organizations (PPOs), representing 14 million Americans, reported such data for the first time this year is an extremely positive step toward expansion of a proven improvement strategy. However, only 76 million of 176 million Americans in health plans are represented by the data NCQA released today. With benefit costs still on the rise—at a rate of 7.7 percent for 2006, according to the 2006 Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits Survey released Tuesday—and more employers shifting workers into consumer-directed health plans, it's imperative that such plans be held accountable for their quality of care.
- Finally, as the Scorecard described and NCQA's report reiterates, huge variation in health care performance still exists in every region of the country and in every clinical area as well. It is critically important that we look to benchmark performers within the U.S., and in other countries, for models that can be replicated in order to help bring the benefits of measurement and improvement to all Americans.
The Commonwealth Fund Commission's Scorecard demonstrated that up to 150,000 deaths could be averted and up to $100 billion saved each year if the entire U.S. health system raised its performance to the benchmark levels already being achieved in pockets of excellence around the country. NCQA's report supports the case for a continued focus on those high performers, in order to produce a health system that delivers access, quality, equity and efficiency for all Americans.