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AHRQ'S New Prevention Quality Indicators Flag Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations

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Press Release Date: November 20, 2001

The Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) today announced the availability of the new Prevention Quality Indicators—a free tool for detecting potentially avoidable hospital admissions for diabetes and other illnesses which can be effectively treated with high-quality, community-based primary care. The AHRQ Prevention Quality Indicators will allow users to measure and track hospital admissions for uncontrolled diabetes and 15 other conditions using their own hospital discharge data and will provide the information needed to improve the quality of primary care for these illnesses in a community or state. November is American Diabetes Month.

"One way to improve the quality of Americans' health care is by preventing unnecessary hospitalizations that increase health risks as well as costs," said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Tommy G. Thompson. "To do this, we need to be able to track the outcomes of health care services that people receive. AHRQ's Prevention Quality Indicators will help us do this."

For example, research shows that 7.2 hospital admissions per every 10,000 people aged 18 to 64 in the United States are for uncontrolled diabetes. A goal of Healthy People 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) roadmap for improving Americans' health, is to reduce hospitalization rates for uncontrolled diabetes for persons in this age bracket to 5.4 per 10,000 people, which health experts agree can be accomplished by improving the quality of outpatient diabetes care and access to such services.

The Prevention Quality Indicators represent hospital admission rates for common conditions that also include bacterial pneumonia; pediatric gastroenteritis; urinary infections; congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which if adequately treated by primary care providers, generally do not require hospital inpatient care. The rates are population based and adjusted for age and sex.

"Providers, policymakers and others seeking to improve health care need easily accessible and scientifically reliable indicators of quality that they can use to flag potential problems, follow trends over time, and identify disparities across communities and regions," said AHRQ Director John M. Eisenberg, M.D.

The AHRQ Prevention Quality Indicators can be used to answer a wide array of questions regarding the quality of primary care in a community or region. For example, if a state health department or hospital association wants to know the quality of primary care provided to people in their state for a condition such as diabetes, they would select the AHRQ Prevention Quality Indicators for that illness and use them to measure their state's hospital discharge data on admissions for diabetes. They would then compare these admission rates for communities within their state with benchmarks such as their state average or national and regional averages soon to be available through AHRQ's HCUPnet.

The AHRQ Prevention Quality Indicators are part of the new AHRQ Quality Indicator modules developed by the UCSF-Stanford Evidence-based Practice Center. They represent a refinement and further development of the HCUP Quality Indicators, which were developed in the early 1990s as a starting point for hospitals and health care systems to begin quality assessments using hospital discharge data.

Upcoming additions to the AHRQ Quality Indicators include the Inpatient Quality Indicators, a set of 29 provider- and area-level indicators relating to utilization, mortality and volume, and the Patient Safety Indicators, a set of indicators that provides information on potential inhospital complications and patient safety concerns following surgeries, other procedures and childbirth. Both modules are expected in 2002.

To download the Prevention Quality Indicators and accompanying software, go to Users must access the SAS statistical software package to run the programs, which they will then have to apply to their own databases that contain information on hospital discharges.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: Bob Isquith, (301) 427-1539 (


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