Quality of care is just one of those issues that have become front and center in health care today. Regardless of recent attention, quality of care as a goal of the health care professional has been around for centuries. A thorough understanding of quality in health care will provide an overview and introduction to this concept as a whole; define what quality is and how it relates to health care; explore some of the challenges to implementing quality in a health care organization; and examine some of the historical aspects of quality.
What is Quality?
Webster's Dictionary (2010) defines quality as "a degree of excellence," "superiority in kind," and "an inherent feature." Although the list of definitions and synonyms on the subject in general is exhaustive, these definitions give us a general sense of what the concept really means. When we hear the word ‘quality', we immediately think of something having value or great importance. When we go shopping for an item, we want the best item we can find, and are usually willing to pay more money for that item in the assumptive expectation that cost assures the item is of higher quality. In general, our choices are based on the quality of an item or service regardless of cost, within reason. The same holds true as it relates to health care. We all want and deserve the best care when we become consumers of the health care industry's services. So, how do we define quality in health care?
According to Buchbinder and Shanks (2007, pp 82-84), quality in health care is a term that can be defined in several ways. The National Academies Institute of Medicine (IOM) (1990) defines health care quality as "the degree to which health services for individuals or populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with the current professional knowledge." This is perhaps the most accurate description of quality as it relates to health care....