Friday, October 17, 2008

Doing Good with Good OR: Health Policy, AHQR

Dr. Steven Cohen, Director at the Center for Financing, Access & Cost Trends at the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) in the Department of Health & Human Services, USA, shared with the audience the various topics that the Center has been working on.

The Center employs statisticians, economists, social scientists and clinicians to achieve their motto, “advancing excellence in healthcare”. They also monitor and analyze the current trends in healthcare, ranging from cost, to coverage, to access, and to quality of care. Some figures that were shared were:
  • Every $1 out of $6 of the US GDP (or 16%) goes to healthcare – largest component of federal and State budget
  • Other western European nations spend less than 10% on healthcare.
  • In 2006, $2.1 trillion was spent on healthcare. That is $7,026 per capita, which is a 6.7% increase over 2005.
  • At this kind of growth, it is projected that $4.1 trillion will be spent in healthcare in 2016 (1/5 of GDP). 
  • 5% of the US population account for 50% of the healthcare expenditures.
  • Prescribed medication expenditures almost doubled from 12% to 21% in ~10 years. 
  • The largest expenditure is on inpatients (over 30%).
  • The second largest is on ambulatory care (over 20%). 
  • Chronic diseases (heart, cancer, trauma-related disorders, mental health, and pulmonary) account for a majority of the expenditures.
  • Medical errors accounted for 44,000 avoidable deaths in hospitals a year.
  • Americans are less healthy: 33% obesity rate and high rate of chronic diseases.

AHRQ aims to provide long term system wide improvement for healthcare quality and safety. To provide policy makers with informed recommendations, surveys, simulations , forecasting models, and other OR tools are often employed to answer difficult questions. Through these methods, AHRQ is able to establish evidence and assess risks associated with alternative care choices.

AHRQ’s focus on efficient allocation of resources and structuring of care processes that meet patient care needs aids policy makers to establish the necessary high-level strategies and policies. Especially in dire times like these, issues of rationing become the center of discussion. It is AHQR’s responsibility to have the right information to help policy makers make the right trade offs.

Credits: The talk was given at the INFORMS 2008 conference in Washington DC as a plenary in the series of Doing Good with Good OR).

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