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Timeliness is the health care system's capacity to provide care quickly after a need is recognized. Timeliness74 is one of the six dimensions of quality established by the Institute of Medicine as a priority for improvement in the health care system.2 For patients, lack of timeliness can result in emotional distress, physical harm, and financial consequences.75 For example, stroke patients' mortality and long-term disability are largely influenced by the timeliness of therapy.76,77 Timely delivery of appropriate care can also help reduce mortality and morbidity for chronic conditions such as chronic kidney disease.78 Early care for comorbid conditions has been shown to reduce hospitalization rates and costs for Medicare beneficiaries.79 Some research suggests that, over the course of 30 years, the costs of treating complications from diabetes can approach $50,000 per patient,80 and early care for complications in patients with diabetes can help to reduce these costs.81 Timely outpatient care can reduce admissions for pediatric asthma, which account for $835 million in total hospitalization charges annually.82,83
Measures of timeliness highlighted in this section include getting care for illness or injury as soon as wanted and emergency department visits where the patient left without being seen. (For findings related to all core report measures of timeliness, go to Tables 2.3a and 2.3b.)