Any healthcare organization, regardless of its size, must be concerned with quality improvement at all times. The field of healthcare involves many interconnected processes and can thus be highly complex. The challenge of any organization is to determine which processes have the most significant impact on outcomes and then focus on improving those processes in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. According to the Institute of Medicine, the goals for Healthcare process improvement include the following.
Avoiding Harm To Patients
The foundation of medical ethics is to first avoid harm. This can mean making sure that patients receive appropriate and correct treatment, and that the treatment is delivered safely to the patient. More specifically, this goal might include reducing the rates of post-surgical and other hospital-associated infections and determining the best use of antibiotics to treat infections in different types of patients. Applying data analytics to improving patient safety allows practitioners to determine a set of best practices that can improve whatever outcome they are focusing on.
Providing Services Effectively
This goal involves two processes: delivering services where they are needed and not wasting services where they are being overused. Waste is a major concern in the healthcare field as it drives up already high costs. More and more healthcare organizations are now relying on scientific data to determine what procedures are likely to do the most good for certain types of patients, and which procedures involve more risks than benefits. Data analytics have helped reduce underuse of helpful services as well as decreasing over-consumption of medical care.
Providing Patient-Centered Care
Another major goal of quality improvement in healthcare is to provide care that is responsive to patients' needs, values, and individual preferences. Traditionally, the concept of patient-centered care has focused on the relationship between the patient and the physician. However, in modern times, patients receive a large part of their care and treatment outside the physician's office. Nowadays, healthcare providers must take into account all of the interactions a patient has with healthcare providers, from primary care physicians and their staff to specialists, imaging technicians, medical social workers, and other support staff.
In addition to these three goals, the Institute of Medicine also lists timely care, efficient use of material resources, and equitable delivery of services as important aims of quality management in healthcare. All of these goals require continuous data collection and analysis to drive decisions. Analytics provide invaluable tools for measuring and tracking improvement and can help healthcare providers fine-tune their practices for the benefit of all patients.