The quest for quality: How to recognize and measure it

March 1, 2007

Quality improvement, pay for performance, and better patient outcomes have been major themes in health care during the past few years. However, many physicians don't fully understand how to introduce quality programs into their practices. Those who do have programs in place often don't know how to objectively measure quality health care.

For this month's column, we have interviewed Marjorie Satinsky, president of Satinsky Consulting in Durham, NC. She is an author and consultant to physicians on quality and other health care topics.

In its second report, the IOM recommends six important steps:

We asked Satinsky to focus on the last two recommendations: coordination of care by teams and implementing care processes and outcome measurements into our practices.

Patient care both within our private offices and in the hospitals or other surgical settings where we operate involves many members of the health care team, she said. For example, in our offices, administrative staff who check in patients for office visits, physicians, nurses, and other members of the clinical staff who facilitate arrangements prior to surgery all affect the patient experience. They need to work with each other as a team and collaboratively with other teams, such as those at the hospital.

The care process includes every aspect of the patient experience, from the time he/she calls your office for an appointment to the point when you complete the provision of care. Outcome measurements apply to the totality of care and to the steps along the way.