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Health Aff (Millwood). 2004;Suppl Variation:VAR54-62.

Policy support for patient-centered care: the need for measurable improvements in decision quality.

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  • 1Health Decision Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.


The phenomenon of practice variation draws attention to the need for better management of clinical decision making as a means of ensuring quality. Different policies to address variations, including guidelines and measures of appropriateness, have had little demonstrable impact on variation itself or on the underlying quality problems. Variations in rates of interventions raise questions about the patient-centeredness of decisions that determine what care is provided to whom. Policies that support the development and routine use of measures of decision quality will provide opportunities to measurably improve the quality of decisions, thereby leading to more patient-centered and efficient health care.

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