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Report: Treatment quality varies widely for expensive chronic conditions

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A group that tracks health care quality has found wide variation in the care of chronic conditions around the state.  

"They are conditions that affect a lot of people and they tend to be costly conditions," said Julie Sonier, MN Community Measurement's president, "but also conditions that ... when they're well managed lead to better health outcomes, better productivity in the work place and lower costs, so that's our reason for measuring these conditions."

According to national statistics,  6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic health condition and 4 in 10 have two or more. Caring for people with chronic health problems such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes eats up the vast majority of health care spending. 

MN Community Measurement's analysis of 2018 data found big differences in the portion of patients who get optimal care for their condition, Sonier said.

"For example, for diabetes care we have rates that range across medical groups from about 12 percent to nearly 60 percent," she said. "So one of our purposes in publishing this report is really to shine a light on that variation and think about how we all can get better." 

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death.  To measure quality of care, the study reviewed whether patients met all of five criteria, including blood pressure levels and tobacco use. They also reviewed whether patients received eye exams to detect retinal damage from the condition. 

In general, metro area residents are more likely to receive optimal care than are residents of rural Minnesota. Older patients are more likely to enjoy better management of their condition than younger people. 

The results are broken down by clinic for each condition analyzed.