Improved Health Care Would Save Lives, Sick Days Report Examines Five Areas of Preventive and Chronic Care

If medical care in the United States improved in just five areas of preventive and chronic care, more than 40 million sick days would be averted and 20,000 lives would be saved each year, according to a report released today by the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), a group of 12 non-investor owned health plans and providers.

“This report shows the potential for improvement in the well-being of patients when health care organizations set bold performance goals, and achieve them. Marginal improvements won’t get us there. Crossing the quality chasm will take ambitious and courageous leadership – nothing less,” said Don Berwick, MD, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, based in Boston.

The report, “The Effect of Improved Quality on Population Outcomes,” was commissioned by ACHP to show the societal advantages of measured and improved health care performance. It predicts health outcomes for the U.S. working population based on better management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, and preventive screenings, such as mammograms, by the entire U.S. health care system.

George Isham, MD, medical director of Minnesota-based HealthPartners and chair of the ACHP medical directors council, said: “If more than 20,000 lives could be saved from just these five areas, imagine the effect of improving care and screenings in dozens of other areas. These numbers indicate that we need to challenge ourselves and the rest of the health care profession to improve performance.”

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), using its Quality Dividend Calculator, performed the analysis for this report at the request of ACHP. The analysis includes data from NCQA’s HEDIS® 2002 data set and Healthy People 2010 benchmarks developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The results from the HEDIS® 2002 data set are the basis of the State of Health Care Quality Report, released today by NCQA.

ACHP’s report shows, for example, that 17,000 fewer people would die and 21 million sick days would be avoided in the U.S. health care system if it were to effectively treat 95 percent of people after a first heart attack. The report breaks down the annual effect of achieving this 95 percent threshold for each of the five measures included in the analysis (see table):

Measure Lives Saved Sick Days Averted Costs Saved from Sick Days Averted
Comprehensive Diabetes Care – HbA1c Control 1,473 1,398,995 $163,962,300
Cholesterol Management After Acute Cardiovascular Events – Control 17,377 21,286,487 $2,494,776,364
Controlling High Blood Pressure 2,153 18,134,432 $2,125,355,428
Breast Cancer Screening 566
Cervical Cancer Screening 1,596
Total (All Five Measures) 23,165 40,819,914 $4,784,094,092

Jack Ebeler, president and CEO of ACHP said that breakthrough levels of performance are necessary to achieve these standards of excellence.

“Patients and employers should be demanding health care from plans and providers that are willing to be publicly accountable through measurement,” Ebeler said. “The U.S. health care system needs to set high standards for itself and then go about the task of meeting those standards. They are achievable.”