The Issue

The quality of health care that many Americans receive is inconsistent and often poor. Patients do not always receive the type of known interventions and procedures that are proven to work, which can result in poor outcomes.

Why It Matters

  • Compared to health care in other wealthy countries, care in the United States is high-cost and low-quality. We spend 50 percent more on health care per capita than any other country, but the United States has shorter life expectancies and worse infant mortality rates than most other wealthy countries.
  • Adult patients in the United States receive only about half of the care recommended for their condition—such as giving people with diabetes the right battery of blood tests and eye and foot exams, so that costly and devastating complications are avoided. Nearly 30 percent of the care delivered each year is for tests, procedures, hospital stays and other services that may not improve people’s health, and in some cases can actually harm the patient. Public and private quality improvement and payment reform efforts may help dramatically improve care nationwide.
  • There is a strong public and private investment aimed at getting more value for the money spent on health care—meaning higher quality care provided more efficiently. Increasingly, the government is rewarding providers who give tests, procedures and services that are known to work—a move toward paying for quality of care rather than quantity of services provided.

Policy Context

A core purpose of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to increase value in health care through innovations in payment, technology and other tools that have been shown to improve quality and reduce unnecessary spending. The primary vehicle to accomplish health system change is expanded authority given to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to undertake pilot programs related to health care delivery and organization.

Health Care Quality Fast Facts

Finding the Best Quality

Choosing the right doctor or hospital is one of the most important health care decisions consumers will ever make, yet they have little information to guide the decision.

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Preventable Errors

Between 44,000 and 98,000 people die annually from preventable errors, more than from motor-vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.

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