Quality in Healthcare: What Does It Really Mean?

When it comes to the idea of quality in healthcare, there are numerous opinions on what is truly being discussed. Setting a goal of improving quality, while important, is much too broad. To improve quality as a whole, an organization must dive into all aspects of operation. Is quality timely communication with the parents of a sick child; sure. Is quality a low mortality and readmission rate; absolutely. Or is it meaningful customer service from start to finish; well, it’s that too.

Quality is taking something routine and simple and turning it into something exceptional and memorable. There are a number of steps organizations can take to improve upon the overall quality of their operations and brand as a whole; one such is improving upon current safety measures. According to the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), after the NQF measures were put in place, hospitals were able to reduce readmission rates from 19% in 2011 to 17% in 2012. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology also hopes to improve quality by reducing the number of earlier deliveries encountered by women. With new guidelines in place, ACOG projects nearly $1 billion in savings.

Beyond long term data, quality also relates to real time service and the experiences patients have while in your care. No one area of your organization is solely responsible for providing great customer service. Everyone from front desk and schedulers to nurses and physicians must possess the same desire to give patients a warm welcome, positive experience and personal attention. When any member of the team fails to deliver these important parts of the patient journey, the organization as a whole can lose credibility in the eye of the consumer.

For some, quality healthcare means smiling faces and meaningful conversation with staff members, for others, it could mean the comfort of knowing mortality rates at a specific organization are the lowest in the area. To improve upon “quality” as a whole, we must work to improve upon all aspects of care, as well as gain a better understanding of what quality means to our patients. I was curious what quality healthcare meant to those in the healthcare industry. Here are some of the answers I received from administrators, nurses and managers throughout the country.

“Caring, qualified physicians and staff in a comfortable setting.”

“Quality healthcare occurs when a patient, doctors and technology align at the right moment from diagnosis to treatment plan.”

“I like to make sure I ask several questions that I think are very important to making sure: 1) Is the physician board certified/eligible in their field of practice; 2) if a test/surgery is ordered do I know why (it is being ordered), how much (it will cost) and based on current knowledge will it affect the decision of treatment plans; 3) who does the provider work for –the self-employed physician has a greater interest in “total” quality care than a hospital-based physician who is frequently on productivity to order services because of contractual reasons; 4) who owns the facility where the test/surgery is being performed and is there a less expensive option that gives same results (hospital based tests cost 3-4 times more than outpatient test for the same lab / radiology / other work).  While many of the points are financial rather than healthcare related, I truly believe if we as consumers focus more on the financial aspects truly “quality” of healthcare will go up”

“I define ‘Quality Healthcare’ as that which is provided in the most cost effective manner that is appropriate and timely to the situation.”

Sep 2014


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