HHS sets 6 priorities to improve nation's health care

The agency will use illustrative quality measures to monitor the strategy's progress.

By Charles Fiegl amednews staff — Posted April 1, 2011

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The Dept. of Health and Human Services has released a national strategy to improve quality of care as well as guide new regulations and federal initiatives to produce healthier patient outcomes.

The National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care was released March 21, nearly a year after the health system reform law mandated its formulation. The strategy sets six priorities supporting three aims -- better care, healthy people and communities, and affordable care. These priorities are:

  • Making care safer by reducing harm caused in the delivery of care.
  • Ensuring that each person and family is engaged as a partner in care.
  • Promoting effective communication and coordination of care.
  • Promoting the most effective prevention and treatment practices for the leading causes of death.
  • Working with communities to promote wide use of best practices to enable healthy living.
  • Making quality care more affordable for individuals, families, employers and governments by developing and spreading new health care delivery models.

Each priority establishes a goal and illustrative measures to monitor progress. For instance, the prevention and treatment priority aims to reduce the harm caused by cardiovascular disease. The strategy sets goals to increase hypertension control for adults, reduce high cholesterol levels, increase the use of aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease and decrease smoking.

HHS plans to monitor the percentages of patients with hypertension, high cholesterol, those with ischemic vascular disease who use aspirin or other antithrombotics, and those who received evidence-based smoking cessation services. The measures will have no effect on payment for care, although future versions of the strategy will include more specific measures that could be linked to public and private incentive programs.

"American hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health care providers are among the best in the world," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "With this groundbreaking strategy, we are working with local communities and health care providers to help patients and improve the health of all Americans."

The American Medical Association said it will work with the administration to identify opportunities for translating the strategy's priorities into meaningful actions that benefit patients and physicians.

The AMA "has a long history of advocating for continuous improvement in the health care delivery system that aligns with the six priorities outlined in the national quality strategy," said Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, chair of the AMA Board of Trustees. "For more than 10 years, the AMA-convened Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement has worked to develop over 270 evidence-based clinical quality-of-care measures that provide a foundation to monitor improvement in the care that is provided to patients nationwide."

The national strategy is available online (link).

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