It also noted that the "only significant change" has been that fewer physicians have opted not to prescribe antibiotics, with compliance rates for HMO physicians dropping from 28.7% in 2009 to 24.2% in 2012. "In seven years, we haven't been able to exceed 30% and the rate in 2012 was worse than it was in 2009," said O'Kane.
Another area of improvement was pediatric obesity screenings through regular body mass index (BMI) assessments. The study noted that "for the first time, the 'right thing' happened in more than half the cases, with physicians in Medicaid HMOs performing BMIs 51.8% of the time during regular checkups for children between the ages of 3 and 17.
"We exceeded 50% for the first time and we're making progress, but our goal is to see those measures exceed 90%," said O'Kane.
Childhood immunizations were another bright spot. The study found that, in 2012, 63.3% of children enrolled in Medicaid HMOs received influenza vaccinations, an increase of 6.2% from 2010. Immunization rates for the rotavirus, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, were even higher at 76.7% in commercial HMOs, a 13.2% increase from 2010.
But O'Kane said childhood immunization rates are being hampered by what she calls "urban legends" that spread disinformation about vaccines and lead some parents to not allow their children to be vaccinated.