The Q Series: What is Health Care Quality Assurance?

January 4, 2016 · Shireesha Jevaji

The Q Series: A series of informative blog posts that explain the building blocks of health care quality and emerging trends in health care delivery reform.

Q: What Is Health Care Quality Assurance?

A: When people think of “quality assurance,” they might relate it to manufacturing—parts streaming by on a conveyor belt under the eagle-eyed gaze of inspectors.

That’s almost not wrong.

But unlike quality “control,” which focuses on process output, quality “assurance” refers to requirements and goals for a product, service or activity. Quality assurance is process oriented, quality control is product oriented. A key aspect of quality assurance is systematic measurement: monitoring processes, with a feedback loop for error prevention.

How many of us apply the idea of quality assurance to health care?

In health care, it refers to activities and programs intended to “assure” or promise improvement in quality of care in a defined medical setting or program. It involves assessing or evaluating quality; identifying problems or issues with care delivery and designing quality improvement activities to overcome them; and follow-up monitoring to make sure the activities did what they were supposed to.

Investing resources in quality improvement activities can help health centers meet other goals related to quality, such as moving toward the patient-centered medical home model, achieving meaningful use of health IT, enhancing clinical quality, raising patient and staff satisfaction and gaining third-party quality recognition (for example, accreditation and PCMH recognition).

NCQA uses statistics to track the quality of care delivered by the nation’s health plans and providers. The numbers have improved over the years: health care protocols have been refined, doctors have learned new ways to practice and patients have become more engaged in their care. Improvements in quality care translate into saved lives, prevented illnesses and reduced costs.

Just an example of why #qualityimprovement tools matter.

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