The quality of care delivered by health plans that publicly report their performance improved from last year, but gaps in quality remain and contribute from 42,000 to 79,000 avoidable deaths every year, according to a newly released study by the NCQA.
The performance improvement recorded last year by the 563 health plans was among the largest ever recorded, says the NCQA's State of Health Care Quality 2004.
Average health plan performance improved by 4 percentage points or more. For example, in the "controlling blood pressure" measure, average performance rose from 58 percent to 62 percent. If every American with hypertension received care through one of the top health plans in the country, between 15,000 and 26,000 deaths annually could be prevented and over 21 million sick days per year avoided, according to the report.
Not all the news is good, however. Since 1999, rates on measures related to depression followup have remained persistently low. Appropriate treatment of people with behavioral health conditions remains a critical shortcoming of the U.S. health system, with an estimated 32 million to 35 million adults who suffer from major depressive disorder in their lifetime. In any given year, 19 million American adults suffer from depression.
SOURCE: STATE OF HEALTH CARE QUALITY 2004, NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE.