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U.S. Health Care System in Need of Change, Report Says

By Sarah Abruzzese, CQ Staff

AUGUST 3, 2006 -- The U.S. health care system lags behind other industrialized nations despite providing some of the best health care in the world, but implementing policies to increase quality and access to care could reverse the trend, according to a new report by The Commonwealth Fund.

The report, put together by the group's Commission on a High Performance Health System, examines sources of failure within the system, such as decentralization of care providers and lack of health information technology, and recommends ways to address the problems.

Despite the fact that the United States spends the most money on health care, the report says, the country needs to implement significant and systemic changes to increase access, quality, and efficiency of care for all Americans, especially for vulnerable populations. The country needs wide-scale policies and practices to improve safety, expand the use of health IT, reward high-performance health care providers through a payout system, expand access to health care quality and cost data, and expand health insurance coverage.
The report also says that health care providers must be held accountable for meeting quality, safety, and efficiency benchmarks.

"There is wide agreement among the public, policymakers, and health care professionals that we should get much more from our health care system," said Commission Chair James J. Mongan, president and chief executive officer of Partners HealthCare System in Boston, in a statement. "Our message to the nation is that our future health and economic well-being depends on acting now to begin the transformation."

The Commission on a High Performance Health System, which consists of 18 commissioners, was formed in July 2005 to address health care issues.

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