Health care quality is an ethical standard of care given by any healthcare institution, as defined by some external standard. As with quality in many other fields, it’s examining whether or not something is adequate and whether or not it suits the purpose. Often, when we think about the quality of health care, we don’t talk about the good or bad quality of care but only about “okay.” If it’s okay, we don’t give it a second thought, but we’re quick to criticize if it’s not okay. Quality of care in any healthcare setting must meet standards defined by legal and professional obligations.
To evaluate the quality of care, health institutions need three kinds of information: scientific knowledge, characteristics of patients, and consequences of health outcomes. Scientific knowledge refers to the agreement between facts and experts’ opinions, including physicians and other institution employees. Experts may agree on whether or not a treatment is effective harmful, or safe. When there are disputes as to these facts, and there are no independent bodies to resolve them, the decisions of physicians and other staff are considered to be part of the scientific knowledge of the institution.
Characteristics of patients and their relation to the services they receive refer to each patient’s unique characteristics and the unique services they receive. Both the characteristics and the services are measured as dimensions of quality definitions. In clinical trials, the duration of treatments, side effects, and benefits for patients who receive a certain number of weeks of care are included in quality definitions of care. These measurements are intended to allow researchers to evaluate trials over time and see how they improve their health.
The third dimension considered in the quality definition is the effect of treatments on patients. This dimension focuses on the “net” dimension of care. This refers to the impact of treatments on the patient and can include short-term and long-term implications on the patient’s health. Some examples include the impact on physical functioning, emotional well-being, and satisfaction with life. It also includes the quality of the relationships developed between the patient and their primary care provider.
The fourth dimension focuses on how health care quality has been maintained or improved over time. One of the reasons this dimension is so important is that it describes the entire course of health care from when patients receive treatment until they die. For example, if all aspects of a patient’s health care are maintained, the patient will experience low hospitalizations, severe medical complications, and other adverse health outcomes. On the other hand, if there are significant improvements in health outcomes, then the quality of care has been improved. Likewise, if healthcare quality improvements are not enough to ensure better health, then the quality of care needs to be improved further.
The fifth and final dimension considers how the service system itself is organized. In this dimension, three separate dimensions are used: systems, staff, and outcomes. The patient experience goals system is considered to be a part of the overall health care quality picture. This is usually determined by looking at the different types of employees who work within the organization and comparing them to the health outcomes achieved by patients who receive care from these same employees. The staff dimensions look at the structure of the staff, including their educational qualifications, job functions, levels of training, and interaction with patients.
Finally, the last dimension considers whether or not patient outcomes are being maintained as desired. The dimensions used here focus on whether or not the patient is satisfied with the results of their treatment, whether the staff is effective at communicating with patients, and the extent of staff turnover and other forms of dissatisfaction with the health care system. These quality definitions help healthcare providers and organizations make informed decisions about their practices and the services offered to patients.
The dimensions mentioned above are essential in defining the quality of care services. Each of these dimensions can potentially measure the quality of care provided to a patient, an individual, or a group of individuals. When applied correctly, each dimension will give an accurate account of the value provided to a patient during health care services. If the dimensions for a specific practice or organization are not defined, the impact of that practice or organization on a patient’s experience will be challenging to determine. More importantly, the resulting value may not be positive for the patient.