State Health Care Quality Reports at New .Gov Site

Wondering how your state compares to others on health care quality performance scores or health care disparities? Then check out the new website from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) called "State Snapshots." On Wednesday, AHRQ held a webinar introducing the site and revealed a user-friendly, yet limited tool.

Since 2003 AHRQ has tracked 250 measures across about 40 databases. These measures are used to construct the National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and select measures from the NHQR are now displayed online at the State Snaphshots page. This site displays data from 2009 and provides various categories for making comparisons, including:

  • Overall health care quality
  • Types of care
  • Settings of care
  • Clinical conditions
  • Focus areas on disparities, payers, and variation over time

During Wednesday's webinar AHRQ representatives demonstrated the site layout and answered questions about the interface. After participating in the conference and navigating the site, I'm impressed with the overall presentation. With a dashboard-style layout, the State Snapshots allow viewers to rapidly select a metric of interest in a particular state, compare performance on that measure to other states or the national average, and drill down to gain further insights regarding metric development.

Although easily navigable, the site nevertheless has a few shortcomings. Most notably, the applications of the dashboards are limited. Only those interested in state-level quality performance - a small group of state planners and decision-makers - will find the metric outlays actionable. Unless facing the luxury of deciding between providers in multiple states, individual patients interested in using government resources to make decisions about where to seek care to will need to look elsewhere (the Hospital Compare website, for example).

Although the applications for the State Snapshot site are limited, the site is still worth a glance. This is because the simple graphs and charts allow viewers to readily grasp the lesson that health care quality and disparities vary widely across the nation. This variation is the reason that, despite passage of recent health insurance reform legislation, improvement of the health care system will remain an ongoing topic of debate.

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