Objective: To identify issues related to the quality of health care in the United States, including its measurement, assessment, and improvement, requiring action by health care professionals or other constituencies in the public or private sectors.
Participants: The National Roundtable on Health Care Quality, convened by the Institute of Medicine, a component of the National Academy of Sciences, comprised 20 representatives of the private and public sectors, practicing medicine and nursing, representing academia, business, consumer advocacy, and the health media, and including the heads of federal health programs. The roundtable met 6 times between February 1996 and January 1998. It explored ongoing, rapid changes in health care and the implications of these changes for the quality of health and health care in the United States.
Evidence: Roundtable members held discussions with a wide variety of experts, convened conferences, commissioned papers, and drew on their individual professional experience.
Consensus process: At the end of its deliberations, roundtable members reached consensus on the conclusions described in this article by a series of discussions at committee meetings and reviews of successive draft documents, the first of which was created by the listed authors and the Institute of Medicine project director. The drafts were revised following these discussions, and the final document was approved according to the formal report review procedures of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
Conclusions: The quality of health care can be precisely defined and measured with a degree of scientific accuracy comparable with that of most measures used in clinical medicine. Serious and widespread quality problems exist throughout American medicine. These problems, which may be classified as underuse, overuse, or misuse, occur in small and large communities alike, in all parts of the country, and with approximately equal frequency in managed care and fee-for-service systems of care. Very large numbers of Americans are harmed as a direct result. Quality of care is the problem, not managed care. Current efforts to improve will not succeed unless we undertake a major, systematic effort to overhaul how we deliver health care services, educate and train clinicians, and assess and improve quality.