Study: U.S. quality initiatives stalling

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The quality of the U.S. healthcare system is not where it should be and will not improve in the three to five years, according to a new study released by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute that surveyed 60 healthcare leaders.

The study concludes that after two decades of efforts to improve the quality of healthcare, momentum has stalled. The main causes: healthcare organizations are confused by multiple quality mandates and mounting requirements for quality performance reporting in the absence of government standards or industry consensus.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is calling on the industry to develop common standards and procedures around quality. Failure to act could put the sustainability of the US healthcare system at risk, the organization said.

"We are losing the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of patients every day due to preventable medical errors," said Jim Henry, a member of the healthcare practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. "There is an urgent need to change that pattern, and change it now. There is a lot of work being done on quality, but health organizations are still working in silos at cross purposes, and they are as far apart on quality today as they were five years ago. It is time for action and collaboration."

PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced several steps it is undertaking to jumpstart progress in the quality movement:

  • Facilitating a market-level initiative that brings together commercial health insurance payers with hospitals and physicians in a single metropolitan city to reach consensus on quality measures and to track the impact of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) on quality improvements;
  • Fostering cross-industry collaboration and dialogue by establishing an elite thought leadership and networking group of health industry leaders representing payers, providers, employers, consumer advocates, pharmaceutical companies and life sciences firms;
  • PwC is researching the impact of investments in health information technology, including electronic medical records, designed to improve the quality of patient care; and
  • Participation in the World Economic Forum's Working Towards Wellness Initiative, a worldwide effort to stimulate greater business engagement in the fight against chronic disease through employee wellness programs.