QUALITY COMMISSION: To Release Final Report Today
After a year of "reviewing the quality of care in the $1 trillion health system," a presidential commission on health care quality will release its final report today. USA Today reports that the summary will "recommend a national commitment to reducing medical errors and inappropriate care; expanding research into what works best in medicine and increasing efforts to put information about the performance of doctors, hospitals and HMOs into consumers' hands." The 34-member commission was given two tasks by the president: "to write a consumer health care 'bill of rights' and to conduct a comprehensive review of the quality of health care in the nation."
Quality Of Care
In its report, the commission outlined four overall problems: "an unacceptably high rate of medical errors, the extensive overuse of some services, the underutilization of other services and a wide variation in patterns of care across the country." According to the commission, nearly 180,000 people die each year from "medical mishaps and errors," and about "1 million are injured." Also, "[o]ne in five surgeries and medical tests are unnecessary," and about "a third of heart attack victims who could benefit from a drug called a beta blocker don't get it," leading to 18,000 deaths a year. The commission "advises a wide-scale attack including quicker assessment of new technologies and procedures and a national emphasis on getting health providers to practice medicine based on research results rather than on their beliefs of what works."
USA Today reports that the "commission is not expected to endorse a federal law." The patients' bill of rights endorsed by the commission last November "includes permitting people to appeal insurance denials to outside panels of experts, allowing access to emergency rooms without the threat that insurance companies will deny payments and making sure patients' medical records are kept private." But on managed care in general, the panel found that HMOs are not delivering "substandard care, despite the rising tide of complaints." The commission found that "HMOs are being poked, prodded and urged to improve the quality of care in a way that should spread to the rest of the system." President Clinton is expected to "endorse the recommendations in a White House ceremony Friday." Clinton also may urge "Congress to establish a permanent national advisory panel on health care quality" (Findlay, 3/12).