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Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

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Efforts to Improve Health Care Quality

Improving health care quality is a team effort, and it is ongoing on many levels. To succeed, every part of the health care system must become involved, including government and nongovernment organizations, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, other providers, and you, the patient.

Sarah's Story

Sarah can tell you a story about the importance of getting good quality health care. Last year, she decided to have elective surgery to repair a hernia. She visited the surgeon in his office before the operation and was very pleased with his bedside manner and friendly staff. Sarah put herself in the doctor's hands and didn't ask many questions.

Although Sarah's operation went smoothly, she soon developed a high fever from an infection. The doctor said she would have to stay in the hospital a few extra days. That's when things began to go wrong. When she really needed them, the nurses were slow to respond to her calls, her doctor didn't always stop in to see her during his hospital rounds, and she sometimes didn't get her pain medicine on time.

Fortunately, Sarah's infection finally cleared up, and she was sent home to recuperate from her surgery. Sarah is fine now, but this story could have had a very different ending. If you need surgery, be sure to ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of the operation.

Select for examples of questions to ask your doctor.

One way to assess and track quality of care is by using measures that are based on the latest scientific evidence. A health care measure clearly defines which health care services should be provided to patients who have or are at risk for certain conditions. Measures also set standards for screening, immunizations, and other preventive care.

There are two types of measures: clinical measures and consumer ratings. Select for more information about health care quality measures.

Because measures are intended to set general standards for a broad population, they may or may not apply to you. Always check with your doctor about your level of risk for a particular condition and which types of screening and tests you should have.

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AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care