5 Principles for Improving Quality Management in Healthcare

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The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines quality as “systematic and continuous actions that lead to measurable improvement in health care services and the health status of targeted patient groups.” In health care, improved quality management helps reduce waste, decrease mistakes, and improve patient care.

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Building a Foundation for Quality Management in Health Care

To improve quality, health care leaders must understand the basic building blocks of quality management and recognize common challenges.

The Building Blocks of Quality Management

There are several foundational elements for crafting quality healthcare management. These elements involve focusing on the needs of patients and considering the needs of employees. These building blocks are held in place by effective leadership strategies, which can encourage employees to deploy a care-focused vision. The implementation of process orientation, efficient data collection and transmittal, and demand-oriented care is fundamental to building quality health management. Additionally, it’s essential to build concrete strategic partnerships with providers and third party services. Finally, it’s essential for an organization to continually seek out improvements in their management processes.

Barriers to Quality Management

There are several potential stumbling blocks healthcare managers should be cognizant of while trying to implement a quality management strategy. One of these barriers is a lack of clear policy for reporting errors. Another potential issue involves the complexities resulting from extensive collaborations between individuals and departments. Inadvertently creating complicated and burdensome rules to address problems can also cause resistance to quality management. Healthcare managers may encounter issues pertaining to reactive, rather than proactive, approaches to addressing problems. Finally, punishing individuals for mistakes instead of correcting the process may be a barrier that impedes quality management implementation.

The Five Principles of Quality Improvement Initiatives

Health care leaders should keep these principles in mind when developing quality improvement initiatives.

Guiding Principles for Health Care Administrators and Leaders

The first key principle health care organizations can use to govern the administrative process is to analyze and understand variations in the data they collect. Another important element is the ability to define quality and obtain patient consensus on patient-reported outcomes, safety, effectiveness, efficiency, and timeliness. Additionally, it’s important to track improvement as a whole instead of just individual performance. It’s also essential to adopt a quality improvement framework model that provides answers to organizational goals, key performance indicators, and actions that lead to improvement. The final principle involves introducing hands-on improvement projects.

Achieving Success with Quality Improvement Initiatives

Numerous health care organizations across the U.S. have reaped the benefits of successful quality improvement initiatives.

One of these organizations is Allina Health which used data analytics to demonstrate the potential of its pharmacist-led medication therapy management (MTM) in reducing the overall cost of care. Another organization, Mission Health, used a comprehensive data-driven approach to identify sepsis, a major driver of mortality in hospital settings, at an early stage and standardize its treatment.

UtilityPoint Health used information obtained from a readiness assessment, an opportunity analysis, and expert resources to create a prioritization and implementation approach to outcomes improvement. A fourth organization, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, used activity-based costing to deliver detailed and actionable cost data across the analytics environment and support contract modeling, service line reporting, and clinical process management. Finally, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport adopted a systematic, data-driven multi-pronged approach to increase efficiency and decrease the costs of care.

The Role of Health Care Leaders

Health care leaders play a dynamic role in shaping quality care. They can empower others by encouraging team members to contribute, and by supporting their long term development. Leaders can also effectively and strategically influence diverse parties to meet goals. Additionally, they can show commitment to collaborating with internal and external stakeholders. Fourthly, they can clearly and logically describe performance gaps and explain why improvements are necessary. Leaders can also be aware of factors that affect their own behavior, such as personal sources of stress, emotions, and prejudices. Finally, leaders can effectively lead by remaining calm in difficult and uncertain circumstances.

A Positive Result for All

The goal of quality management in health care is to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes – a win-win scenario for both health care organizations and patients.


HealthCatalyst, A Guide to Applying Quality Improvement to Healthcare: Five Principles

HealthCatalyst, The Top Six Examples of Quality Improvement in Healthcare

Houston Chronicle, What Is Quality Management in Health Care?

ResearchGate, Quality Management in Health Care: Concepts, Principles and Strategies

University Research Co., USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project