Although the economy and national security are President-elect Barack Obama's first concerns, most Americans still say healthcare is another top priority in need of immediate attention.

Partnership for Quality Care (PQC; New York) is taking the opportunity to address the new administration with its primary mission, which is that the best way to reduce healthcare costs and improve services is to focus on quality as a key metric, particularly when it comes to treating millions of people with chronic diseases.

PQC claims it's the nation's largest joint labor-management healthcare coalition, with heavyweight members such as Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, California), representing about 50 million patients.

PQC released a report this week on how to tackle the escalating social, economic and individual costs of treating and managing chronic disease, specifically timed for receipt by the new presidential administration.

"The genesis of this report was during a meeting last March in Washington," PQC Executive Director Kate Navarro McKay told Medical Device Daily. "It was attended by advocates of healthcare reform and we talked about the question of choosing between access, quality and cost. We say that the best way to get a handle on costs is to focus on quality. There are a lot of things we could be doing more effectively and efficiently on direct medical costs. The key metric to look at when reforming healthcare is Does this improve quality?'"

Titled Quality, Cost Control, Universal Healthcare, the report shares success stories from providers throughout the country such as Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) and Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston).

"Exit polls have shown that 10% of voters say healthcare is a top issue and two-thirds say they are worried about being able to afford healthcare," McKay said. "Part of economic recovery is addressing the huge access to healthcare problems. We can't wait to start working on a solution. Our message to Obama is that the longer we delay, the more difficult it will be to address it. There's overwhelming support for healthcare reform."

PQC's primary goals include:

Ensure universal healthcare coverage for all Americans.

Improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare services by adopting clinical best practices and promoting organized systems of care.

Establish a stable, equitable, broad-based, and predictable healthcare financing system.

Promote affordability and address rising healthcare costs by advancing opportunities to achieve the greatest value for our healthcare dollars.

Provide meaningful individual choice of providers and plans while promoting preventive care, protecting consumers from the costs of major illnesses, and improving the management of chronic conditions.

Achieve greater reliability in healthcare coverage, including improved portability of coverage and continuity of care.

The group believes that a focus on quality is the correct way to achieve those goals. "Americans also face a crisis of quality that is inextricable from the problems of cost and access," according to the PQC report. "The U.S. has extraordinary healthcare workers and hospitals, but care is too often uncoordinated, fragmented, and inconsistent with patients' needs."

The group offers several specific examples of how increased attention to quality has reduced costs and improved patient outcomes. For example, in northern California, Kaiser Permanente began an investment in chronic disease treatment that focused on changing the care delivery system to ensure that healthcare providers made better and more efficient use of treatments known to be effective.

"The results were remarkably successful," according to the report. "The percentage of patients with effectively controlled hypertension skyrocketed between 2001 and 2006, from 36%, the national average, to 75%. Mortality from cardiovascular disease plummeted 25% over a 10-year period, and from 2004—2007 more than 9,600 diabetic patients had controlled their cholesterol, averting an estimated 300 heart attacks and strokes."

The group intends to deliver the report to members of Congress as evidence and ammunition in the fight to attain better healthcare in the U.S.

"Then we will move into a phase where we highlight the importance of acting now," McKay said.

"Families have seen their healthcare costs skyrocket while wages have stagnated. Americans are struggling to afford basic necessities; they can't afford to wait any longer for a solution to our healthcare crisis," said Dennis Rivera, Chair of SEIU Healthcare (New York), which represents more than 1.1 million nurses and healthcare workers, and a member of PQC.

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