Dissatisfied with the progress of your hospital’s quality improvement initiatives? Inundated with complaints from patients, staff and doctors? Quality issues cropping up every week?
Results in Healthcare
Each interaction between a patient and a healthcare provider (doctor and/or hospital) has consequences, also called results or outcomes. The question is: “Are those results/outcomes good enough for the patient, provider, and payer?” Sadly, the answer is often “No.” While people might have different ideas about what good healthcare means, most would agree with this general description:
- Safe – no unnecessary harm
- Effective – achieving the desired or intended result(s)
- Efficient – getting the desired results while avoiding unnecessary resource utilization
- Timely – no unnecessary delays
- Equitable – fair and equal care for all patients
- Delivered with respect and caring
(We also consider other attributes when assessing quality of care but that is a separate matter.)
Good healthcare is something that patients can appreciate. They may or may not be able to appreciate the latest high-tech CT scanner your hospital purchased recently or the fact that you and your staff toiled for weeks preparing for last month’s hospital accreditation survey. But patients will appreciate care that addresses their health problem in a way that meets the criteria listed above. Better care leads to enhanced satisfaction among patients, families and caregivers, and also results in fewer complaints and adverse events.
The Business Case for High-Quality Care
High-quality care doesn’t necessarily mean higher costs. To the contrary, better care can often be achieved at a lower cost. Lower costs, through elimination of waste, translates to better value for patients and improved profit margins for healthcare providers. On the other hand, poor quality is costly in several ways. Poor quality healthcare may lead to patient harm, diminished satisfaction among patients and staff, as well as prolonged hospital stays, escalating costs, possible litigation and a tarnished reputation. Toyota’s recent “sticky accelerator” problem, which will likely cost the company billions, is a reminder about how quality defects, particularly those that directly impact human life, can have serious repercussions for business.
High-quality, cost-effective care is possible and achievable; studies have demonstrated this fact. But organizations need to equip their staff with the necessary skills to achieve this level of care, e.g. reliability, patient safety, patient flow, waste elimination (to name a few). Senior management must also understand and apply the essential elements for significant and sustained strategic improvement, thereby harnessing the full potential of their organization’s investments in quality improvement.