Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Health Quality Measures Have Plateaued, Report Finds

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Health Quality Measures Have Plateaued, Report Finds

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON--After more than a decade of steady gains, health plans are seeing some quality improvement scores plateau, according to a report from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

"We feel frustrated that we don't seem to put our power behind what we really want," NCQA president Margaret. E.O'Kane said at a press briefing announcing the results. "The status quo is still unacceptable."

The report included 2008 data from a record 979 plans--702 health maintenance organizations and 277 preferred provider organizations--that collectively cover 116 million Americans.

Plans did record improvement on a few measures. For example, on average, 79.1% of patients in commercial plans were successfully monitored while taking certain medications such as diuretics, up from 74.4% in 2006. And among Medicare Advantage plans, the percentage of heart attack patients who received beta-blockers at discharge and stayed on them for at least 6 months climbed 10.1 percentage points, to an average of 79.7%, during the same period.

In addition, some areas seemed to plateau because they had reached their maximum potential: For instance, the percentage of children and adults with persistent asthma who were prescribed asthma medications stayed steady at more than 92%.

But there is room for improvement in other areas, Ms. O'Kane said. Among commercial plans, for example, 57% of measures showed no statistically significant improvement from 2006 to 2008; that figure was 64% in Medicaid plans and 86% in Medicare plans.

Specifically, among Medicare Advantage plan members, no improvement was seen on measures assessing medication use in arthritis or screening for cervical cancer.

Further, the percentage of Medicare patients with poor blood sugar control did not decline as hoped.

Measures with overall plan compliance below 50% included follow-up of children on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications (34%), initiation of alcohol/drug dependency treatment (43%), and monitoring of patients on antidepressants (46%). …

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