quality management in healthcare

What is quality management in healthcare?

Quality management in healthcare is a systematic approach to ensuring that healthcare services are safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable. It involves setting standards for care, measuring performance against those standards, and making improvements where necessary.

Defining Quality in Healthcare

Quality, in the traditional sense, relates to whether a product or service satisfies the customer by meeting expected characteristics. However, in the context of healthcare, quality definition takes a more complex form. Not only must healthcare services satisfy the consumer – in this case, the patient – but they must also meet a stringent set of criteria to ensure they meet the highest possible standards and protocols.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has devised an explicit quality definition for healthcare, encompassing several crucial domains. These Healthcare Quality Domains set a benchmark for what entails excellent care. They highlight the importance of providing ideal care – that is, care that meets all the patient’s health needs – by appropriately qualified providers. This is crucial as the provision of care by underqualified or inexperienced individuals can lead to substandard outcomes, negating the very idea of quality in healthcare.

These domains also emphasize the significance of an appropriate setting. This refers to the environment in which healthcare is provided, which needs to be conducive to effective treatment. Furthermore, the domains underscore the necessity for patient-centered care – care that places the needs and preferences of the patient at the forefront. The goal here is to ensure that every patient receives individualized care tailored to their unique healthcare requirements.

Importance of Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care is a principle in healthcare that emphasizes the provision of care that is entirely focused on meeting the needs of the patient. It revolves around designing and implementing care strategies that consider the patient’s perspective, thereby ensuring better health outcomes and greater patient satisfaction.

An essential component of patient-centered care is engagement. This requires the use of patient engagement platforms to facilitate effective communication and interaction between the patient and the healthcare provider. By fostering an open dialogue, these platforms allow patients to express their concerns and preferences, which can then be addressed in the care plan.

Patient education is another crucial element of patient-centered care. By providing patients with pertinent information about their health status, treatment options, and self-care strategies, healthcare providers can empower patients to take an active role in their care. This can significantly improve health outcomes, boost patient satisfaction, and enhance the overall quality of care.

Patient-centered care plays an invaluable role in improving healthcare quality as it caters to patients’ physiological needs and addresses psychological aspects like comfort, dignity, and privacy. By adopting a patient-centered approach, healthcare providers can offer holistic care that significantly contributes to achieving the collective goal of quality management in healthcare – optimal health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Principles of Quality Management in Healthcare

Quality management in healthcare involves developing, implementing, and refining systems, policies, and processes to deliver superior healthcare services. This encompasses various activities, from designing effective healthcare delivery systems and formulating patient care policies to optimizing patient care processes.

A key principle of quality management is harm minimization, which involves taking necessary precautions to minimize the potential risks and adverse effects associated with healthcare services. This principle calls for the consistent use of evidence-based medicine, the practice of making medical decisions based on the best available clinical evidence, to reduce the occurrence of medical errors and enhance patient safety.

Quality management also entails patient care optimization. This involves improving healthcare processes to enhance service delivery and achieve every patient’s best possible health outcomes. This principle emphasizes taking a patient-centered approach, understanding each patient’s unique needs, preferences, and values, and tailoring care strategies accordingly.

At the heart of quality management lie quality management systems (QMS). These systems integrate various quality management activities, facilitating coordination and ensuring consistency in efforts to improve healthcare quality. They provide a framework for monitoring performance, collecting and analyzing data, and driving continuous improvement initiatives.

Quality measurement and quality improvement are integral components of QMS. By regularly measuring quality indicators, healthcare providers can identify areas for improvement, track progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of quality initiatives. The ultimate objective here is to achieve continual quality improvement, which is fundamental to Total Quality Management (TQM) and Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) approaches.

Role of Accreditation and Standardization in Quality Management

Ensuring quality in healthcare also involves complying with established standards and obtaining relevant accreditation. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations plays a significant role. Setting rigorous standards for healthcare quality and safety encourages healthcare organizations to continually improve their services.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also manages healthcare quality. Its series of standards, known as ISO 9000, stipulates quality management principles (QMPs) applicable to all sectors, including healthcare. The principles cover various aspects of quality management, such as customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision-making, and relationship management.

Accreditation and standardization help validate that a healthcare organization meets recognized quality standards. They objectively evaluate the organization’s performance, helping foster trust among consumers and stakeholders. More importantly, they drive continuous improvement by requiring organizations to continuously commit to enhancing their quality management practices.

Quality Management as a Path to Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is a key indicator of healthcare quality. A patient’s experience with healthcare services heavily influences their perception of quality. For healthcare providers, enhancing patient satisfaction should be a key driver for quality management efforts.

Establishing strong patient relationships is one of the most effective strategies to boost patient satisfaction. By demonstrating genuine care and concern, empathizing with patients, and respecting their values and preferences, healthcare providers can build trust and rapport with patients. This leads to enhanced patient satisfaction, loyalty, and compliance.

Another strategy to improve patient satisfaction is to provide timely care. Delayed care can lead to a worsening of health conditions and increased dissatisfaction among patients. Hence, ensuring that patients receive timely and efficient care is crucial to patient satisfaction and overall healthcare quality.


  • In 2020, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated that medical errors cost the United States healthcare system $1 trillion annually.
  • A 2019 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) study found that quality improvement interventions can reduce hospital readmissions by up to 20%.
  • A 2018 Commonwealth Fund study found that patients receiving care from hospitals with strong quality improvement programs are more likely to survive heart attacks and strokes.
  • A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that quality improvement interventions can reduce healthcare-associated infections by up to 60%.
  • A 2016 study by the Joint Commission found that hospitals with strong quality improvement programs have lower mortality rates than hospitals with weak quality improvement programs.

These statistics show that quality management can significantly impact the quality of care and the cost of healthcare. By investing in quality management, healthcare organizations can improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and create a safer and more efficient healthcare system.

Gary Kaplan, M.D. on Challenging Paradigms for Safety Culture Improvement

Gary Kaplan, M.D., Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System, discusses the necessity of challenging traditional paradigms to enhance patient safety and care. He emphasizes that physician buy-in is crucial to aligning efforts and moving forward with quality improvement initiatives​ (Fierce Healthcare)​.


Overall, quality management in healthcare is multidimensional, encompassing every aspect of healthcare delivery. It deals with everything from patient care policies and processes to healthcare systems design and data collection. Quality management involves improving patient safety, minimizing errors, and optimizing healthcare outcomes using contemporary methodologies such as TQM and CQI. Furthermore, obtaining accreditation, applying ISO quality management principles, engaging patients, and investing in patient education play a pivotal role in driving quality in healthcare. Thus, quality management is critical to providing superior healthcare services, achieving satisfactory health outcomes, and fulfilling the higher goal of healthcare – enhancing patient satisfaction.

Published On: May 1st, 2024Categories: Healthcare Trends

About the Author: Mousa Kadaei

Moses is a writer and content creator with a deep passion for the intersection of healthcare and technology. His work reflects a keen interest in how technological advancements can transform and improve the healthcare sector. As the content manager at Ambula, a leading provider of EMR software and comprehensive healthcare technology solutions, Moses leverages his extensive knowledge and experience to craft compelling and informative content that resonates with both healthcare professionals and technology enthusiasts.

Elevate your practice to the next level

Let us show you how to save 2 hours a day.