Making the Grade: Improving the U.S. Health System

July 17, 2008

The U.S. health care system is often touted as a model for the rest of the world. We are clearly a leader in costs, but how well are we performing in return for our high investment? How do we do compare to benchmarks of achievable performance? And is performance getting better?

While policymakers and candidates debate how to improve our health care system, The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System has updated its national scorecard on the U.S. system. The scorecard, to be released next week, measures U.S. performance against national and international benchmarks for 37 indicators in the areas of healthy lives, quality, access and efficiency. The results indicate the U.S. often falls short or is moving in the wrong direction. Despite pockets of improvement, results overall indicate the need for a more comprehensive approach to achieve a high value, high performance health system.

The new scorecard comes on the heels of a recent Harris Interactive survey showing that half of all Americans think that fundamental changes are needed to improve the U.S. health system, and that one-third think it needs to be completely rebuilt. Is there hope for improving health care quality without completely overhauling the system? Based on the scorecard findings, where do we most need to improve? How can we get more value for the money we spend on health care? How do we gain better access, equity and efficiency?

To address these and related questions, The Commonwealth Fund is sponsoring a July 17 breakfast briefing. Speakers will be: Cathy Schoen, The Commonwealth Fund; Christine Cassel, American Board of Internal Medicine and member of the Commission on a High Performance Health System; and Carolyn Clancy, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Karen Davis of The Commonwealth Fund will moderate.

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