Sunday, June 8, 2008

$300 Million to Improve Quality

“Across America, there are serious gaps between the healthcare that people should receive and the care they actually receive,” according to Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Despite having the most expensive healthcare system in the world, patients are subject to too many mistakes, too much miscommunication and too much inequity. As a result, too many Americans aren’t receiving the care they need and deserve.”

At the RWJF briefing held at the National Press Club on June 5th, the Foundation released information on new research conducted by the Dartmouth Atlas Project at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. The initiative analyzed Medicare claims and found staggering variations in healthcare quality across the country. The report notes that African Americans lost legs to amputations at a rate nearly five times that of whites, and there were a number of differences in the population in receiving basic recommended care.

To improve the quality of healthcare in this country, RWJF has just initiated a $300 million program known as “Aligning Forces for Quality”. The 2008 program was launched to improve healthcare in 14 communities in the U.S. The communities selected are going to make fundamental and cutting-edge changes needed to rebuild their healthcare systems.

The communities are located in Cincinnati and Cleveland Ohio, Detroit and Western Michigan, Humboldt County California, Kansas City Missouri, Maine, Memphis Tennessee, Minnesota, Seattle Washington, South Central Pennsylvania, Western New York, Willamette Valley Oregon, and Wisconsin.

RWJF launched the first phase of the project the “Aligning Forces for Quality” program in 2006 as an effort to help communities build healthcare systems where none existed. The first phase of the program provided community leadership teams with grants and expert assistance to help physicians improve quality of care and help consumers make informed healthcare decisions.

Now the program in 2008 is expanding and geared to improve the quality of care, provide people with information on how to be better partners with their doctors, improve care inside hospitals, and reduce inequality in caring for patients of different races and ethnicities.

Speaking at the briefing and emphasizing the point that receiving the right healthcare at the right time can make a big difference, Cynthia Nunnally, M.P.H, from the Shelby County Health Department in Memphis, talked about her history with diabetes. She is a 43 year old African American and has had diabetes since early childhood, but fortunately, she has received excellent care so far.

She has endured complications and been hospitalized maybe 50 or 60 times and as a result has some renal and vision loss. She has had access to dieticians and has been an active participant in her healthcare. However, as she said “many people in communities are not encouraged or are unable to take an active role in handing health problems and medical issues and therefore do not always receive the best care.”