March 2007 Clinical Laboratory News: 2006 Healthcare Report Reveals Low Screening Rates

March 2007: Volume 33, Number 3

2006 Healthcare Report Reveals Low Screening Rates

While healthcare quality continues to improve in the U.S., many patients are still not receiving appropriate preventive screenings that could not only save lives, but also save the healthcare system money. According to recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), more than $2 billion could be saved every year by eliminating hospital stays related to diabetes complications, but only 48% of adults with diabetes reported receiving HbA1c tests, as well as foot and eye exams.


Screening rates among some diabetes patient populations have improved, however, particularly in adults over 40 years of age, according to the 2006 editions of AHRQ’s National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and National Healthcare Disparities Report. Between 1999 and 2002, the NQHR report found that 48.1% of those diagnosed with diabetes had their total cholesterol under control—an improvement over the 1988–1994 rate of 29.9% for this measure. The rates associated with HbA1c control have improved only slightly, with 45.5% of those diagnosed with diabetes maintaining control of this measure in 1999–2002, compared with 41.2% in 1988–1994.

In addition to these diabetes screening rates, the reports also found that only about 52% of adults report receiving recommended colorectal screenings—which include the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and colonoscopy. These screening rates were significantly lower for blacks and Asians, compared to whites. Since 2002, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended colorectal cancer screening for adults 50 and older.

In terms of overall quality, the U.S. healthcare system continues to improve at a steady rate. The report found a 3.1% increase—the same as in the previous two annual reports—in 40 core quality measures, which include preventive measures such as prenatal care, health advice, and screenings. Full copies of both these 2006 reports can be found at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website.  

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