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Quality of Care

Quality health care involves judging the appropriateness of medical tests and treatments, and measures to continually improve the delivery of services. 

Receipt of high quality medical care is shown to improve health outcomes and quality of life. 

Health professionals know a lot about the treatments that are most effective for improving health and reducing untimely deaths. Still, in America, many adults and children are receiving just over half of the treatments that are recommended for prevention, acute care, and chronic diseases, based on medical knowledge.1,2   Problems in quality of care may be due to poor resources in doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. They may also be due to lack of training and experience among health professionals. Finally, they may be due to communication problems between patients and the healthcare system.

In one study, women, younger individuals, and persons with higher levels of income received higher levels of care than men, older individuals and persons with lower levels of income. However, these differences were small compared with the gap between recommended and received care for people in all groups.3  

Quality improvement programs and programs to reduce disparities in healthcare are needed in order to improve the delivery of healthcare to the population. These programs must include evidence-based tests and treatments that have been found to benefit patients with certain conditions and to help people who are healthy stay that way. 

It is also important for healthcare administrators, health and public health professionals, patients and families, community organizations and residents, and local, state, and national policymakers to work together to assure the success of healthcare quality improvement programs. As a patient, you can participate in quality improvement programs in your doctor’s office or health plan. As a community resident, you can become involved as an advisor to your doctor or health plan on how to improve quality of care for people in your community.

1McGlynn EA, Asch SM, Adams J, et al. The quality of health care delivered to adults in the United States. N Engl J Med 348(26): 2635-45, 2003.

2Mangione-Smith R, DeCristofaro AH, Setodji CM, et al. The quality of ambulatory care delivered to children in the United States. New Engl J Med 357(15): 1515-23, 2007.

3Asch SM, Kerr EA, Keesey J, et al. Who is at greatest risk for receiving poor-quality health care? New Engl J Med 354(11): 1147-56, 2006.

Quality of Care
design element