California is often celebrated for its rich diversity. Geographic, population, and cultural differences are embraced as key ingredients that make our state successful. But when it comes to health care services, differences are neither expected nor valued.
Study after study indicates that where you live has a direct impact on your health and well-being. In fact, as Dr. Tony Iton of The California Endowment has said about determinants of health status, your zip code is probably more important than your genetic code. One look at the results from an Integrated Healthcare Association online tool, the California Regional Health Care Cost & Quality Atlas, confirms wide geographic variation in health care measures across the state — and the tremendous opportunities that exist to improve quality and contain costs.
What drives this variation? More importantly, what can be done to minimize it? While some of the variation in care delivery may reflect differences in patient populations and needs, other differences are unexplained and likely unwarranted.
Benchmarking and tracking performance on key health care quality and cost measures is a critical first step in reducing unwarranted variation.
Dramatic Variations Across the State
As shown in the table below, quality gaps for people enrolled in commercial insurance products are common across the state’s 19 geographic regions, and the atlas data pinpoint significant opportunities to improve care for hundreds of thousands of people.