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Patient Safety and Quality

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AHRQ's health care quality and disparities reports can help nurse leaders make key decisions about quality and patient safety

The National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) summarizes the quality of care supplied by the U.S. health care delivery system and identifies gaps in health care delivery. The National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR) summarizes gaps in health care quality and access by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status for the general U.S. population and for priority populations such as women, children, and rural residents. Both reports, prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), contain about 45 core quality measures and focus on 4 dimensions of health care quality: effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, and patient centeredness. As such, they can assist nurse executives in understanding the status of their health care facility and/or network compared with others in the State or the Nation, according to a recent article.

The article, written by AHRQ researchers Anna Poker, M.S., R.N., Marybeth Farquhar, M.S.N., R.N., and Elizabeth Dayton, M.A., encourages nurse executives to use the reports to compare their facility or network with a national benchmark for care quality in a certain area; further their understanding of health care risks; and increase their likelihood of providing excellent health care.

Nurse executives can also use the reports to monitor health care delivery and identify areas where improvement is most needed. For example, the second annual NHQR, published in 2004, found the most improvement in patient safety. It also found more room for improvement in smoking cessation counseling and reducing inappropriate use of antibiotics. The 2004 NDHR found that the rate of hospital admissions for uncontrolled diabetes was much higher for poor blacks and Hispanics than high-income whites, revealing the opportunity to improve diabetes management among poorer minorities. To access the NHQR and NHDR, visit

See "Using the national healthcare quality and disparities reports for executive decision making," by Ms. Poker, Ms. Farquhar, and Ms. Dayton, in the December 2005 Nurse Leader, pp. 1-3.

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