HEALTH CARE QUALITY: Gore Backs Universal Standards
Vice President Al Gore yesterday announced "a joint public-private endeavor ... [to] create a set of basic quality standards for all health professionals." The Los Angeles Times reports that Gore launched "an ambitious planning effort" to bring together business and health professionals into "a coordinating group charged with 'ensur(ing) that consumers have a consistent set of standards so they can choose health plans based on quality -- not just cost." Gore called for correcting the "underuse, overuse [and] misuse" of the "highly fragmented business of delivering health care." While accreditation and individual quality standards are already in place for providers, the Times notes that Gore's initiative could implement the first "single set of uniform standards accepted as a universal guide of quality care."
Prevention Is Key
In announcing the new effort, Gore said "180,000 people die each year in hospitals because of preventable errors." A report issued by the vice president said: "nearly 80% of heart attack victims do not receive beta-blockers"; overprescribed antibiotics cause patients to develop a resistance to them, thus raising their medical bills; and "16% of all hysterectomies are unnecessary." Gore said new "standards and guidelines should lead to reductions in the numbers of asthma- related deaths, drug reactions and bedsores." He also called on providers to increase the "proportion of adults who get flu shots," and to improve prenatal care "to reduce the problems of premature babies." In his report, Gore called for streamlining the "different reporting requirements and information needs of purchasers and consumers." The report is titled, "The Challenge and Potential for Assuring Quality health Care for the 21st Century." It was prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Road Ahead
The new public-private initiative on health care quality will be lead by a health care quality forum, a coordinating group charged with putting together new quality standards for consumers. Prior to beginning operations, the forum will engage in a six-month planning period under a committee chaired by Henry Ford Health Care CEO Gail Ward. New York-based United Hospital Fund President James Tallon will be the group's executive director. Forum member John Rother, director of public policy for the American Association of Retired Persons, said, "We're trying to bring everyone together to get a consensus developed" (Rosenblatt, 6/18).