Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Americans get appropriate care only 55% ot Time

Knight Ridder describes the results of a new study that shows Americans get the appropriate medical care only 55% of the time.

So, think this means that wealthy and well-insured people get better care, and poor people get bad care? Nope.
WASHINGTON - U.S. patients receive proper medical care from doctors and nurses only 55 percent of the time, regardless of their race, income, education or insurance status, according to a national study published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A well-functioning health care system should provide recommended levels of care 80 to 90 percent of the time, the study's authors said.

In a performance review of preventive services and care for 30 chronic conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, researchers found that it's almost a coin flip as to whether patients get the recommended care from doctors and nurses - even though the standard treatments are widely known.

The findings show that everyone is at roughly equal risk of inadequate care from medical professionals. However, small differences did occur in the care given male and female patients and those from different racial and ethnic groups.

"Not only is no place safe, no one is safe from poor quality," said Dr. Steven M. Asch, the lead author and senior natural scientist at Los Angeles-based RAND Health, the nation's largest independent health-policy research organization. "No matter what group we looked at, whether they were black, white, rich or poor, uninsured, insured, educated, uneducated, all of them were receiving mediocre care."

He blamed the nation's "fragmented and chaotic" health care system for making it difficult to deliver quality care. Greater use of computers could improve care by helping doctors track patients' medical histories, he said. In addition, computers could provide electronic reminders about needed tests and appointments. Electronic medical records could log information on other caregivers' thoughts about a patient's condition.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has incorporated some of these improvements, and a study has found that VA patients get proper recommended care about 66 percent of the time.

The RAND study, funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, used telephone surveys and patient medical records to follow the health care of nearly 7,000 adults in 12 metropolitan areas.
[Underline is mine.]

So the problem is not money, it is a lack of a decent medical care system.


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