Insurers spent little on quality improvement, study finds

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“However," he added, "in order for our healthcare system to guarantee that all Americans receive the best possible health care, we need all major healthcare stakeholders … to make substantial commitments to far-reaching, dramatic quality improvements.”

Quality improvement efforts would help prevent hospital readmissions and reduce medical errors, for example — improving the patient experience while lowering costs overall.

The study reported that efforts to improve health outcomes represented the majority (51 percent) of quality improvement spending in 2011, followed by investments in health information technology (17 percent), wellness (13 percent), patient safety (10 percent) and reducing readmissions (9 percent).

The authors predicted that most insurers would not substantially invest in quality improvement until the healthcare system becomes more transparent as a whole, giving consumers a better sense of the link between plans and outcomes.

The Commonwealth Fund is a nonprofit research foundation that supports healthcare reform.