WHO: Poor healthcare stymies progress, raises costs

By Sommer Brokaw
A World Health Organization report published Thursday highlighted the effects of poor-quality healthcare. Photo by agilemktg1/Flickr
A World Health Organization report published Thursday highlighted the effects of poor-quality healthcare. Photo by agilemktg1/Flickr

July 5 (UPI) -- Poor-quality healthcare services impede progress worldwide and help increase costs to trillions of dollars annually, according to a new report.

Unnecessary treatment based on inadequate diagnoses or other errors and inadequate facilities and providers was present in all countries across the economic spectrum, the World Health Organization said in a release Thursday.


The rate of patients acquiring an infection during a hospital stint, at 10 percent, was slightly greater in low- to middle-income countries than in high-income countries, where the rate was 7 percent. The infections could have easily been avoided through improved hygiene and antimicrobials, WHO said.

In high-income countries, one in 10 patients is harmed during medical treatment, the report found.

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The report, "Delivering Quality Health Services - a Global Imperative for Universal Health Coverage," comes as all United Nations members have pledged to a goal of achieving universal health coverage by 2030. It is a joint report by the WHO, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

"Quite honestly, there can be no universal health coverage without quality care," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.


World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim added that "low-quality care disproportionately impacts the poor, which is not only morally reprehensible, it is economically unsustainable for families and entire countries."

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The report also determined healthcare workers in seven low- and middle-income African countries were only able to make accurate diagnoses one-third to three-quarters of the time and followed clinical guidelines for common conditions less than 45 percent of the time, on average.

Another finding was that research in eight high-mortality countries in the Caribbean and Africa found that only 26 percent of family planning services and 21 percent of sick-child care qualified as effective.

The study also determined about 15 percent of hospital money spent in high-income countries was due to mistakes in care or hospital-acquired infections.

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"Without quality health services, universal health coverage will remain an empty promise," OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría said. "The economic and social benefits are clear and we need to see a much stronger focus on investing in and improving quality to create trust in health services and give everyone access to high-quality, people-centered health services."

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