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Improving Health Care Quality

A Guide for Patients and Families

This guide presents information and lists resources to help you get better quality health care. You can read all the way through or go directly to the sections that interest you the most:

Every day, millions of Americans receive high-quality health care. They get the right care, at the right time, and in the right way. And, they get the best possible results.

But every once in a while, something goes wrong. People receive health care services they don't need. Or they can't get care when they need it. Sometimes, people are affected by medical errors that could have been prevented. A medical error is a mistake that happens when a person gets health care services.

The fact is, health care quality varies. There are many reasons for this because quality depends on many things, including where you live, who you are, and how much is known about treating your condition.

Select for print version (PDF file, 75 KB). PDF Help.

This guide was produced in a cooperative effort by the agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the leadership of Secretary Donna E. Shalala:

Administration for Children and Families
Administration on Aging
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Food and Drug Administration
Health Care Financing Administration
Health Resources and Services Administration
Indian Health Service
National Institutes of Health
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

To learn more about the wealth of evidence-based information these agencies provide, visit the HHS Web site at

For more information about quality health care, visit the HHS gateway to reliable health information at

For partnerships to produce this or a more detailed print version of this guide, contact the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) at 800-358-9295 or write to AHRQ Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907.

To link to the AHRQ site or this guide, access our Linking Policy.

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AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care