The health care sector in the United States consists of an array of clinicians, hospitals and other health care facilities, insurance plans, and purchasers of health care services, all operating in various configurations of groups, networks, and independent practices. Some are based in the public sector; others operate in the private sector as either for-profit or not-for-profit entities. The health care sector also includes regulators, some voluntary and others governmental. Although these various individuals and organizations are generally referred to collectively as “the health care delivery system,” the phrase suggests an order, integration, and accountability that do not exist. Communication, collaboration, or systems planning among these various entities is limited and is almost incidental to their operations. For convenience, however, the committee uses the common terminology of health care delivery system.
As described in Crossing the Quality Chasm (IOM, 2001b) and other literature, this health care system is faced with serious quality and cost challenges. To support the system, the United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country
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