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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Five Ways Measuring the Quality of Health Care Is Good for Consumers

Caitlin Morris

Director of Affordability Initiatives

Americans spend more money per capita on health care than any other country, yet there is little evidence to suggest that we get a higher quality of care for that extra money. Indeed, far too often, Americans receive substandard quality of care. So, what can we do about it? In order to improve health care, we need to be able to measure its effectiveness.

Measuring the quality of health care can improve care for consumers in five ways:

1)     Holding health plans and providers accountable for providing high-quality health care: Tying things like accreditation, certification, public reporting, and financial incentives (or penalties) to the quality of health care can encourage health plans and providers to deliver the best care possible.

2)     Helping consumers make informed choices about their care: Health care decisions are complex, and consumers face a variety of choices. Measuring and reporting the quality of health care can help consumers get the information they need in order to make decisions about where and when to seek health care.

3)     Ensuring patient safety by preventing overuse, underuse, and misuse of health care: Too often, patients don’t receive the care that is recommended for their condition, or they receive too much care. Both of these scenarios can lead to preventable complications, illness, or even death. Measuring health care quality helps to ensure that patients receive the right care at the right time, the first time.

4)     Measuring disparities in health care delivery and outcomes: Racial and ethnic minorities routinely face more barriers to care and receive poorer quality care. Measuring health care quality can help us understand the effectiveness of care that diverse populations receive, which can help policy makers target improvements and hold providers accountable.

5)     Identifying what works and what doesn’t in health care and driving improvement: At the end of the day, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Measuring health care quality is essential to not only evaluating the performance of the health system and the care experience, but also to driving necessary improvement where the delivery of care falls short.

For more information on why quality measurement is important for consumers, read our brief, “Measuring Health Care Quality: An Overview of Quality Measures” and our introductory factsheet, “Measuring Health Care Quality: An Introduction.”