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New snapshots show States vary widely in providing quality health care

Research Activities, August 2009, No. 348

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) annual report of State-by-State quality data continues to give States mixed reviews for the quality of care they provide. As in previous years, AHRQ's 2008 State Snapshots show that no State does well or poorly on all quality measures. Kansas, for example, ranked 3rd among all 50 States and the District of Columbia for its low rate of HIV-related deaths, but 48th because of its high numbers of patients with heart failure who did not receive recommended care while in the hospital. Oregon ranked 1st for its large number of adults age 65 and over who received a pneumonia vaccine, but 46th for the low number of home health patients who got better at walking or moving around. The District of Columbia ranked 1st for its low suicide rate, but 51st for the highest colorectal cancer death rate.

The 2008 State Snapshots provide State-specific health care quality information, including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. They summarize health care quality in three dimensions: type of care (preventive, acute, and chronic care), setting of care (hospitals, ambulatory, nursing homes, and home health care), and clinical areas (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, maternal and child health, and respiratory disease). The Snapshots allow users to explore whether a State has improved or worsened compared with other States in several areas of health care delivery. New features in the 2008 State Snapshots provide more ways to analyze the quality of health care for each State compared with all States, as well as States in the same region. Enhanced features include:

  • A new Focus on Asthma section: This section includes State-specific information on the prevalence of adult self-reported asthma rates; potentially preventable hospitalizations for children, adults, and the elderly; and potential returns on investment of asthma care quality improvement programs for Medicaid, State employees, and privately insured Americans.
  • An expanded Focus on Disparities: This section includes State-specific information on disparities in the quality of care compared with the nation overall by looking at care received by various racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
  • Enhanced Dashboards: The dashboard for each State now contains revised graphics that succinctly display all of the summary measures on health care quality and allow a clear view of the range of each State's performance.

AHRQ's annual State Snapshots are based on data drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities, and health care organizations. To access this year's State Snapshots tool, go to

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is also releasing State-by-State reports on the health care status quo. The reports are available at

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Page last reviewed August 2009
Internet Citation: New snapshots show States vary widely in providing quality health care: Research Activities, August 2009, No. 348. August 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.