What is quality and why should it matter to you?

David Grossman, MD, MPH Executive Medical Director, Population and Purchaser StrategyBy David Grossman, MD, MPH; Senior Associate Medical Director, Market Strategy and Public Policy, Washington Permanente Medical Group; Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

First, how do you determine what quality is? The word is so freely used and easily claimed by so many in the health care space that it can be difficult to put your finger on what true quality means.

In general, quality can simply denote a degree of excellence or a distinguishing attribute. And that’s pretty subjective because anything is notable or distinct if you simply believe it is. In health care, however, quality is much less subjective; in fact, it’s concrete. In health care, to claim high quality means an organization must achieve the best possible outcomes for a quantifiable, measurable set of standards for care delivery, including care outcomes, safety, and the patient experience.

Who measures quality?

There are various organizations that measure health care and health plan quality. Among them is the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA); see their publication “The essential guide to health care quality.” Here in Washington state, the Washington Health Alliance (WHA) conducts the eValue8 survey about health plan performance, and the Community Checkup that highlights the health care quality and value of medical groups. Even some large purchasers are now publishing quality scores for their own plans.

Why you should really pay attention to quality measures

Here are three obvious reasons:

  1. Your clients are looking for the best quality coverage at the best price—that’s the best value.
  2. Employers want and need a healthy, productive workforce. Better care means faster recovery and less exacerbation from chronic illnesses.
  3. People want to live their healthiest life and they want to know there’s no better place to go for care than the one you’re recommending.

You’re in a key position to help your clients avoid care that isn’t rated or ranked top quality. And ultimately, where you recommend your clients go for their health care affects the local and national health care landscape. More people getting care from organizations that are of top quality means they’ll likely stay healthier in the first place and also have better outcomes when they do need care.  And if those weren’t notable enough achievements, there’s a cascade effect of lower health care costs, fewer health complications, greater patient satisfaction, a healthier workforce, a healthier community, and the list goes on.

We make your job a little easier

In addition to striving to be a great partner to you in your work, our organization never ceases to continue to improve outcomes in the pursuit of better quality for our members. What this means is that if you seek to capture and understand the true value of quality health care, you’ll see the clear value of our organization’s care delivery model and how our way of caring for people can change lives, impact the economy, and make a qualitative difference.

So the next time an organization claims to offer quality health care, we hope you’ll ask, “How, exactly?” When you ask us, we’ll be happy to meet with you and explain just how we do it.

Read about our medical group’s top ranking and check out our other recent awards and notable recognition.

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