AHRQ releases state quality of care data with mixed findings

In its annual state-by-state quality data, released last Friday, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality continues to give states mixed reviews for the quality of care they provide.

The AHRQ's 2008 State Snapshots, which follow last week's Department of Health and Human Services state-by-state report on healthcare, once again show that no state does well or poorly on all quality measures. The snapshots provide state-specific healthcare quality information, including strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.

According to AHRQ officials, the data was drawn from the 2008 National Healthcare Quality Report, which was released in May by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and contributes to a national portrait of healthcare quality. The snapshots are also based on data drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, healthcare facilities and healthcare organizations.

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"The State Snapshots are an invaluable resource for state officials, healthcare providers and purchasers to help them better understand the extent of healthcare quality and disparities in their states," said AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, MD. "With this information, they can take the necessary steps to improve healthcare quality and address persistent gaps in access to healthcare."

The snapshots summarize healthcare quality in three dimensions: type of care (preventive, acute and chronic care), setting of care (hospitals, ambulatory, nursing homes and home healthcare) and clinical areas (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, maternal and child health and respiratory disease). They allow users to explore whether a state has improved or worsened when compared with other states in several areas of healthcare delivery.

Agency officials said the snapshots report provides more ways to analyze the quality of healthcare for each state compared with all states or states in the same region. Enhanced features include a new focus on asthma, expanded focus on disparities and better graphics displaying summary measures by state.