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HHS Releases Consumer Guide to Quality Health Care

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Press Release Date: December 16, 1998

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today launched a new interactive guide to help consumers when making decisions about their health care. Developed by HHS' Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), the new guide was unveiled by HHS Deputy Secretary Kevin L. Thurm at the kickoff event of the Department of Labor's new employee benefits education campaign, which aims to empower workers in job-based health plans to make informed health benefit decisions.

"The quality of health care varies a great deal in this country," said Secretary Shalala. "Fortunately, health care quality can be measured, and you can use that information to improve the quality of your own health care. Your Guide to Choosing Quality Health Care takes you step-by-step through that process to make some of the most important health care decisions you will ever face."

The Guide is based on research about the information consumers want and need when making decisions about health plans, doctors, treatments, hospitals and long-term care. It is part of the Department's efforts to address the findings of the President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry, released in March 1998. The Commission recommended "strengthening the hand of consumers" through efforts to provide consumers with accurate and reliable information on quality and to encourage them to consider information on quality when making health care decisions.

Select to access Your Guide to Choosing Quality Health Care online.

"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 health care," Deputy Secretary Thurm said. "Use that information, and take part in every decision about your health. Your good health and your family's depends on it."

AHCPR is working with public- and private-sector partners to disseminate Your Guide to Choosing Quality Health Care, and is assisting the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in adapting the tool for its Medicare beneficiaries. Additionally, AHCPR and the Midwest Business Group on Health are cooperating on a joint dissemination and evaluation project, with the participation of several of the coalition's member companies, including Bank One Corporation, Bell & Howell Company, YMCA of the USA and others.

AHCPR Administrator John M. Eisenberg, M.D., said, "Research shows that Americans want and value quality health care. And it is only through research, and the evidence that it yields, that we can hope to build the scientific foundation essential for improving health care quality for all."

AHCPR conducts and supports extensive research on quality improvement, including value-based purchasing, whereby employers and coalitions base health coverage purchasing decisions on quality as well as cost.

Another major AHCPR quality initiative is the support of the development of a survey and reporting tool, known as CAHPS® (Consumer Assessment of Health Plans), which helps people make decisions about specific health plans based on the experiences of people in those plans. CAHPS® has now been adopted by a number of businesses, States and other public and private entities, including HCFA, Medicare managed care organizations, and the Office of Personnel Management for use by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. In addition, for next year the private managed care accrediting organization, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, has included CAHPS® among its measures of managed care plan performance (called "HEDIS", the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set).

In addition to being available on the AHCPR Web site, a limited number of printed copies of Your Guide to Choosing Quality Health Care are available through the AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse by calling 1-800-358-9295.

Note: HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web at:

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 (

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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