Tag Archives: ahrq

Forum offers stats on well-being of elderly

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

AgingStats.gov is an often-overlooked federal clearinghouse of aging-related data from the Federal Interagency Forum on Age-Related Statistics. It focuses on summary reports.

Its latest effort, Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being (174-page PDF), summarizes 37 key indicators it believes are broadly relevant and easy to understand. By my count, 24 of those are explicitly health-related.

Everything is illustrated with an abundance of charts and maps, and an emphasis on bulleted summary and analysis helps keep things accessible. Those looking for a deeper dive into the summary numbers will want to head to the appendix.

As part of its health sections, the report contains seven “Health Status” indicators, including chronic health conditions, depressive symptoms, sensory impairments and oral health, and functional limitations.

One example:

life

It also includes eight “Health Risks and Behaviors” – things like diet, air quality, mammography and vaccinations – and nine “Health Care” indicators, including expenditures, prescription drugs and residential services.

The forum, which nobody seems to refer to by the acronym FIFARS, has been around since 1986. Participants include the Census Bureau, a number of Health and Human Services departments (AHRQ, CMS, NCHS and others), HUD, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the EPA, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Social Security Administration.

Thanks to AHCJ member Eileen Beal for suggesting this as a tool other members might find helpful.

AHRQ releases ’09 state data on health care quality

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

newmexicoThe AHRQ has released the 2009 version of its state snapshots, which are particularly accessible versions of the National Healthcare Quality Report.

The state-by-state information includes, for the first time, data on health insurance, including data on health care quality categorized by source of payment, including private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and those without insurance.

The snapshots also compare relative health care quality of each state, both overall and in specific areas such as preventive care and ambulatory care.

My favorite part is the 3.5 mb Excel file that has each state’s numbers for everything the snapshots measure. It allows relatively easy comparisons that go far beyond the simple health-o-meter snapshots themselves.

Related

AHRQ asks ‘Who’s paying for rising health costs?’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The latest statistics brief out of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality address what researchers called the “growing burden of hospital-based medical care expenses on the government, tax payers, consumers, and employers.” In this brief, they’re looking to figure out where to put the blame for those in-patient cost jumps that occurred between 2001 and 2007 and thus divided the increases into four categories: Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and payments from those without insurance.

payers2

The numbers hold a few interesting subplots, any one of which would benefit from further exploration. Here are a few:

  • When you compare 2001 and 2007, private insurance paid for slightly fewer stays, while stays for Medicare and Medicaid were up,respectively, by 20.1 and 29.9 percent.
  • “From 2001 to 2007, the number of stays with a principal diagnosis of blood infection nearly doubled (97.1 percent; 675,400 stays in 2007).”
  • The cost of a hospitalization for intestinal infection jumped 148 percent, yet hospital stays for such infections were up only 69.5 percent.
  • “For four of the top ten conditions—blood infection, acute kidney failure, respiratory insufficiency, arrest, or failure, and skin and subcutaneous skin infections—the uninsured demonstrated greater increases in growth in total costs and number of hospital stays than the other three payer groups.”
  • Private insurance paid 55.7 more for C-section-related hospital stays over the study period, while Medicaid costs increased 95.1 percent for the same sort of visits.

Check pages seven through 10 for summary tables, including overall numbers and two tables of the ten conditions for which costs are increasing most rapidly.

increases

Report: Health care disparities aren’t getting better

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In their coverage of AHRQ’s latest annual quality and disparities reports (Quality PDF | Disparities PDF), most outlets focused on disheartening news on health-care-associated infections, but the disparities report also deserves a second look. It’s 302 pages that can be oversimplified as “disparities still exist, they’re not getting better, and they’re worse in some areas than in others.”disparities

Here are a few of the more interesting bullet points, all pulled from the first 16 pages of summary information.

  • For Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, at least two-thirds of measures of quality of care are not improving (gap either stayed the same or increased).
  • For Blacks, only about 20% of measures of disparities in quality of care improved (gap decreased).
  • For poor people, disparities are improving for almost half of the quality measures.
  • The largest disparities for Blacks, AI/ANs, and Hispanics included the rate of new AIDS cases. The rate for Blacks was almost 10 times as high as the rate for Whites, for Hispanics more than 3 times as high, and for AI/ANs 1.4 times as high.
  • Asians were 1.5 times as likely as Whites to report they sometimes or never get care for illness or injury as soon as wanted. Poor people were more than twice as likely as high-income people to report this
    problem.
  • Hispanics were 1.7 times as likely as Whites and poor people were 3 times as likely as high-income people to report poor provider-patient communication.
  • Blacks, Asians, AI/ANs, and Hispanics all experienced disparities in the percentage of adults age 50 and
    over who received a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, proctoscopy, or fecal occult blood test and in
    commended hospital care for pneumonia.
  • Blacks and Hispanics both had worsening disparities in colorectal cancer mortality from 2000 to 2006.

The report doesn’t stop with bullet points, of course. Anyone who takes a few minutes to page through the other 280-some-odd pages will be rewarded with in-depth information on disparities in a number of specific diseases and issues – including breast cancer, diabetes, HIV, palliative care, mental health and access to health care – all buttressed with charts, graphs, explanations and data.

AHRQ interviews Ornstein, talks medical errors

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Robert Wachter, M.D., (bio), editor of AHRQ WebM&M (Morbidity and Mortality), interviewed AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, of ProPublica, for a recent issue (get the audio version here). Their conversation began as a general discussion of health journalism, then zeroed in on hospital errors and the Pulitzer Prize-winning series on King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles that Ornstein did with Tracy Weber when both were at the LA Times.

The whole thing is worth a read. In this excerpt Ornstein discusses how health journalists find stories:

Good reporters have a variety of sources of information. Reporters who routinely cover the hospitals in their communities should be constantly looking at state inspection reports, lawsuit data about payouts, their Joint Commission accreditation, and how they’re doing with their training program. All these types of things should be on the radar screen and monitored regularly. But nothing can replace talking to employees in the facilities and the patients that receive care there—trying to get an on-the-ground perspective.

In a companion piece, Wachter reflected on the role the media has played in shaking the medical profession out of a dangerous rut of complacency:

What do we need from reporters who cover the medical errors beat? … reporters need to know enough about error science that they appreciate the importance of searching for systems factors, without immediately zeroing in on more dramatic and obvious sharp-end errors. They need to get the facts right. And, while raising the appropriate concerns, they need to avoid sensationalism and place the error, or the topic, in broader context. When they do these things, they are providing a unique and critical service to patients and caregivers.

AHRQ names decade’s five costliest conditions

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the five costliest conditions from 1996 to 2006 were heart disease, trauma-related disorders, cancer, mental disorders and asthma (five-page PDF).

While costs are up for all five, the AHRQ reports, mental disorders has outpaced the others in terms of cost growth (from $35.2 to $57.5 billion) with trauma-related disorders also making a significant jump (from $46.2 to $68.1 billion). When ranked in terms of per-person expenditures instead of by aggregate, cancer ($5,176 in 2006) and heart disease $3,964 in 2006) were found to be most expensive while asthma ($1,059) had the lowest cost-per person but affected the most people (48.5 million).