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Health Care Quality Varies a Lot

Health care quality varies in this country—a lot. For example, some health plans and doctors simply do a better job than others of helping you stay healthy and getting you better if you are ill.

Research shows that Americans want and value quality health care. And that's a good thing. Because when you make health care choices that offer the best possible care, you are most likely to get the best possible results.

So when it comes to making major health care decisions—about health plans, doctors, treatments, hospitals, and long-term care—how can you tell which choices offer quality health care, and which do not?

Fortunately, more and more public and private groups are working on ways to measure and report on the quality of health care. This means there is more and more information to help you make choices that improve the quality of your own care.

The goal of this guide is to help you find and use such information to choose quality health care. It can also help you measure quality for yourself according to what is most important to you. You can trust the information in this guide because it is based on research about what people want and need in order to make quality health care choices.

Here are some important things to remember as you make such choices:

  • Quality matters. It can be measured, and it can be improved. Take part in every decision about your health.
  • See yourself and your doctor as a team. You need to work together to get the best care.
  • Ask questions, and make sure you understand the answers. The only "bad" question is the one you wish you had asked.
  • Remember that "more" is not always "better." It is always a good idea to find out why a test or treatment is needed and how it can help you.
  • Find and use reliable health care information. Ask your doctor or nurse, use your library, explore the Internet.... This guide has many resources for you to try.

I urge you to keep and use this guide. It can help you and your family answer many of the health care questions you will have.

Make quality health care choices. Your good health, and your family's, depends on it.

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AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care