People talk about it all the time, but really, what is quality healthcare? It is a simple thing to say, but it actually entails a large and intertwined set of characteristics. Some elements refer to patient quality of care, and some refer to outcomes and value for resources expended.
The need for quality improvement in healthcare never ends. We can always do better, and indeed we strive to do so.
Always at the core of the concept is the dedicated healthcare worker. Caring and well-trained people are the most vital element in the recovery or stability of a patient’s health. A physician may make assessments and diagnosis, but the nurse, physician’s assistant, or other healthcare worker is the one who closely monitors and observes treatments given, the patient’s response, the effectiveness of medications and therapy routines, and how dietary restrictions are working. They are responsible for delivering on all aspects of quality healthcare.
What is quality healthcare?
It makes sense to start with a quality healthcare definition that encompasses its most important characteristics:
- Safe. First, do no harm is a long-held tenet of healthcare going back thousands of years to the time of the Greeks.
- Effective. Another aspect that defines quality healthcare is that it does what it is designed to do and provides the healing and relief promised.
- Patient-centered. Because healthcare involves caring for people, putting the emotional and physical well-being of the patient first is vital.
- Timely. Getting treatment quickly is ideal, as delays are not good for outcomes. Beyond negative physical effects, slowdowns can also cause distress in patients.
- Equitable. Every human being, regardless of circumstances, identity, or personal characteristics, deserves access to the very best care.
- Efficient. Wasted time and resources not only adds to cost, but also deprives others of the use of that time and those resources.
How is quality in healthcare measured?
To be meaningful, patient quality of care has to be more than a hazy concept or vague goal. It needs to be measured, both to set up a baseline and to ensure continual quality improvement in healthcare. Some ways to measure quality in healthcare include:
- Health outcomes and responses to therapies
- Clinical and procedural processes
- Patient and caregiver safety
- Efficient use of time and resources
- Coordination of care
- Engaging patients in their own care
- Including caregivers in the process
- How patients perceive the quality of their care
- Speed of care delivery
- Access to care and equity in treatments.
5 ways that healthcare workers impact quality of care
Quality of healthcare is a human-driven reality. The science of medicine can only go so far. When talking of healthcare quality, the knowledge, care and emotional intelligence of the caregiver matters tremendously. Healthcare workers at every level make a contribution. Whether pursuing nursing jobs, physician assistant jobs or other healthcare provider role, these concepts all apply:
1. Building relationships with patients and their families
Providing care, especially healthcare, involves relationships. In good relationships, you have the compassion, communication, and trust necessary to provide quality healthcare. Meaningful relationships are the foundation of high patient quality of care.
2. Communicating regularly and effectively
Communication is not just about building relationships. It also affects the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of patient outcomes. Healthcare workers impact quality of care through effective and consistent verbal, nonverbal and written communication.
3. Tracking progress toward patient goals
A healthcare worker needs to know the patient’s goals to best know how to help them, whether in a hospital, home healthcare, or nursing home environment. Tracking progress will help the patient, caregivers and healthcare team adjust care plans.
Ideally, the healthcare provider will help the patient to do as much for themselves as possible and to take an active role in their own care.
4. Recognizing and reporting changes in behavior
Healthcare workers, because of the daily and ongoing relationships with their patients, are often the first to recognize unusual discomfort, irritability, lack of appetite, difficulty with elimination or breathing problems.
Quality care involves active participation in the well-being of the patient. Reporting unusual behavior or difficulties in certain areas can be critical in the overall quality of care and ongoing assessment of the patient’s condition.
5. Catching and preventing medical errors
Another area that is often caught by the healthcare provider is medical error. Medical errors are one of the primary causes of injury and death to patients. A study conducted by John Hopkins Medicine concluded that over 250,000 people die in hospitals and healthcare institutions every year as a direct result of a medical error.
Nurses and other healthcare workers who are willing to go the extra mile for the well-being of their patients often catch these mistakes. For instance, if a high salt meal is sent up to the room of a patient on a strict, salt-free diet, the healthcare worker who has familiarized himself or herself with the patient and their chart will easily notice this error.
Why is quality healthcare important?
Understanding why quality in healthcare is important and what the components of quality healthcare are ensures that patients are satisfied and enjoy the best possible positive health outcomes.
Nurses and other healthcare workers with genuine passion to serve in the medical field are essential to quality healthcare. Those who view their positions as just a job may not have what it takes to address both the medical and emotional sides of providing care. If you think that a healthcare provider role is right for you, we invite you to explore these nursing resources.
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