U.S. health system continues to face ethnic disparities

Although quality is improving in some areas, access and disparities in health care still exist based on race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other factors, according to two reports by The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (ARHQ). 

The reports examined trends in the U.S. health care system’s performance on almost 200 measures across several areas of quality: effectiveness, safety, timeliness, patient-centeredness, care coordination, efficiency, access and health system infrastructure. 

Key findings from the reports:

  • Across all 179 measures of health care quality tracked in the reports, almost two-thirds showed improvement.
  • Across the 22 measures of health care access tracked in the reports, about 60% did not show improvement and 40% were headed in the wrong direction.
  • Disparities in access to care are not getting smaller.
  • While both process and outcome measures are improving, rates of improvement are faster among processes of care.
  • Several measures related to cancer screening and management of patients with diabetes have worsened over time.
  • Residents of the inner-city and rural areas sometimes receive worse quality of care.  

The authors conclude that the U.S. needs to improve access to care, reduce disparities, and accelerate the pace of quality improvement, especially in the areas of preventive care, chronic disease management, and safety.

(Sources: The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, March 2, 2011, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Disparities and Quality Reports, http://www.ahrq.gov, March, 2010)