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What exactly does quality mean in the healthcare context?

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Quality healthcare is more than just a popular phrase. As the transition to value-based care moves forward, the focus in patient care is shifting to quality and away from quantity. Healthcare outcomes for the patient are more important for the independent physician than the number of patients seen during the day. Given that quality has become such a key factor in healthcare, what exactly does it mean to provide quality care?

In The Essential Guide to Health Care Quality, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) lists two definitions of quality that have been published by nationally recognized agencies. The first was established by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences, which defined quality health care as “safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient and equitable.” In addition, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines quality health care “as doing the right thing for the right patient, at the right time, in the right way to achieve the best possible results.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its Quality Strategy in 2016, listing six goals in the delivery of quality healthcare:

  • Make care safer by reducing harm caused in the delivery of care.
  • Strengthen person and family engagement as partners in their care.
  • Promote effective communication and coordination of care.
  • Promote effective prevention and treatment of chronic disease.
  • Work with communities to promote best practices of healthy living.
  • Make care affordable

What is quality in healthcare?

Healthcare quality refers to the amount of value that any healthcare resource provides, as evaluated by some metric. It is an assessment of whether something is excellent enough and acceptable for its function, similar to quality in other professions.

Quality healthcare also means engaging and involving the patient, so the patient takes ownership in preventive care and in the treatment of diagnosed conditions.

Quality in the healthcare context is a collaborative effort that involves the patient, the independent physician, the patient’s family, and the community as a whole.

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