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VOLUME 44 | NUMBER 1 | FEBRUARY 2009


Building the Path to High-Quality Care

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At this writing, the future shape of U.S. health care is the focus of intense debate. Notwithstanding sharp differences in proposed approaches to guarantee access to high-quality care at an affordable price, an emerging consensus among researchers, policy makers, and the public reflects the urgency of improving health care quality and value. Last year AHRQ’s annual report to the Congress on quality, the National Healthcare Quality Report, found that while quality had improved overall in all settings and population groups, the rate of that improvement has diminished. Moreover, the overall rate of improvement stands in sharp contrast to the annual increase in health spending for the same year. For example, in 2006 the increase in improvement was 2.3 percent in contrast to a 6.7 percent increase in annual spending (Brady, Ho, and Clancy 2008). While the overall costs of health care have received continued scrutiny, the question of what are we getting for our substantial investment has only recently emerged as a primary focus for reform efforts.

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