Background: Congress directed the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to lead an effort for the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop 2 annual reports: a National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and a National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR).
Objectives: This article lays out key concepts, definitions, statistical methods, and findings from these first ever national reports on quality and disparities. We also summarize some possible future directions for the reports.
Research design: The NHQR and NHDR rely on secondary analysis of available data from over 40 established, national databases. The NHQR presents data at the national level, by sociodemographic characteristics, and at the state level. The NHDR presents data broken out by race/ethnicity and by socioeconomic status.
Measures: The 2003 NHQR presented data on approximately 140 quality measures and the NHDR presented data on these same measures plus approximately 100 measures of access to care.
Results: The reports found that high healthcare quality is not a given and that disparities are pervasive throughout the US healthcare system. In addition, they found the quality and disparities issues are particularly apparent in preventive care, but that greater improvement is possible.
Conclusions: As these reports evolve for the 2004 version and beyond, they will be a vital step in the effort to improve healthcare quality for all populations in the United States.