|Quality healthcare a concern in America|
|Tips for determining positive experience|
|Published Wednesday, August 1, 2012 8:29 am|
Healthcare quality has been a growing concern for many Americans, and an important element in the recent health care reform efforts. What constitutes good health care and what do people want in a healthcare experience?
We all want our healthcare to be effective, we would like to be seen in a timely fashion, we would like to feel as though our provider is focused on us and our current illness at that particular moment, and we would like for the course of action with regard to our care to be safe.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is a federal organization that aims to maximize the quality of healthcare that all Americans receive. According to AHRQ, quality healthcare is healthcare that is effective, safe, timely, patient-centered, equitable, and efficient. Every year, it publishes the National Healthcare Disparities Report, which examines the state of disparities between minority and white patients who utilize our healthcare system.
The report demonstrates that African Americans and other minority groups do not always receive the same quality of care that Caucasians receive.
According to AHRQ, healthcare effectiveness involves providing scientifically sound care to people who can benefit from it. Screening, or early detection of disease before symptoms arise, is an important component of effective care. Important cancer screening examinations include mammography for all women age 40 or over; colonoscopy screening for all who are aged 50 or over to help detect colon cancer; and a simple blood test to screen for prostate cancer.
Management of disease is also an important component of effectiveness. For example, in managing chronic diseases like diabetes, it is important for people to receive hemoglobin A1c, blood pressure, foot exams, eye exams, and cholesterol checks regularly.
Likewise, heart disease can be prevented or detected early with regular cholesterol and blood pressure checks and managed by keeping blood pressure under proper control. If diseases are not managed well, the physician should work with the patient to develop a plan for achieving control. The physician must provide thorough education regarding the illness and make the appropriate recommendations. Then the patient holds the responsibility to carry out those recommendations so that the best possible outcome will be obtained.
AHRQ defines patient safety as avoiding injuries to patients from the care that is intended to help them. Most common errors include hospital acquired infections, which have generally declined from 1998-2003, and medication safety amongst our elderly as well as our general population. Alarmingly, AHRQ data indicate that African Americans are more likely than whites to suffer from certain complications, such as blood clots.
For all people who take many different medications, especially the elderly, it cannot be stressed enough to make sure that your physician is consistently performing medication reviews to prevent unnecessary drug interactions that may be harmful. Many times, elderly patients require many medications, however it is prudent to make sure they are not overmedicated or medicated in ways that may do more harm than good.
Timeliness refers to the healthcare system’s capacity to provide care quickly after a need is recognized. Timely care means that delays in receiving care, which can be harmful, are minimized by both the patient and the provider. According to AHRQ, African Americans are more likely than whites to report that they sometimes or never receive care for an illness or injury as soon as they wanted it. They are also more likely to leave a hospital emergency department without being seen. Lack of timeliness in medical care can result in emotional distress, physical harm and financial consequences.
It is well known in this era of health care that the time allotted per patient is becoming shorter and shorter while patients’ illnesses continue to become more complex. However, timely delivery of appropriate care can truly make a difference. For example, with heart attacks, early intervention with thrombolytic therapy (clot busting) or other forms of intervention may help save a life.
Patient centeredness is defined as health care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients and their families, to ensure that all medical decisions respect patients’ wants, needs and preferences and that patients have the education and support they need to make decisions and participate in their own care. It encompasses qualities of compassion, empathy and responsiveness to the needs of the patient.
Patient centered approaches to care that rely on building a provider-patient relationship, improving communication skills, and empowering patients to participate actively in patient-provider interactions improve the overall health status of the patients.
It is these qualities that we all desire in a health care experience. The importance of communication between patients and their providers cannot be stressed enough. This communication will strengthen the relationship and foster a sense of trust so that patients and providers can partner to ensure the optimum health care for each individual.
Do you need further information or have questions or comments about this article? Please call toll-free 1-877-530-1824. Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity please visit: http://www.wakehealth.edu/MACHE.
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