National Health Care Quality Week (HQW) is upon us, providing an important reminder to pause and focus on the issue of health care quality. To do so, we need to ask ourselves: How do we define quality?
Better Care Across a Very Complex System
In America, we provide health care services in many different settings. Ensuring people receive high quality care in each of these settings matters because our complex system is often disjointed, and its negative effects can be harmful to patients and families. You can see the opportunity for challenges to arise when receiving treatment for a sprained ankle or broken hip: from outpatient x-rays to inpatient care, from physical therapy to the follow up with your primary care physician, each step is an opportunity to heal or, if the quality of care is poor, take a costly detour and prolong the malady.
This systemic, multi-provider focus on health care calls into question the role of cost in health care quality. Each step of the process incurs a cost, and if the cost of health care is too high—to the point that people who need health care are priced out—then surely that’s a quality issue. Utilizing smart spending and the efficient use of resources can be a measure of quality, and uniting systems so that we have a more holistic and integrated health care infrastructure is a way to ensure greater quality.
Abt Associates pursues a rigorous approach to enhancing quality, from our health systems strengthening work around the globe to our implementation and evaluation of Medicare’s efforts to keep costs down. The Medicare initiatives include value-based payment models and patient-centered efforts to evaluate value by developing health care system quality reporting programs.
Healthier People and Communities
While we work to maximize efficiency within America’s complex health care system, doing so means nothing if the medical infrastructure isn’t supporting overall population health. As advocates of health care quality, we need to constantly ask ourselves: How healthy is our community? Our state? Our nation? Our world? Is everyone being taken care of, or just those who can afford private insurance? For example, not only are maternal mortality rates going up in the United States, but black non-Hispanic women are more than three times as likely to die in childbirth as white non-Hispanic women. If we can’t stem negative trends and disparities in health outcomes, then any other gains in quality simply aren’t sufficient.
Part of the reason why we work at Abt is to improve health care outcomes for everyone, every day. But HQW gives us and our colleagues a chance to remind ourselves that quality spans a continuum, from systems to execution to outcomes that impact our friends, families and neighbors.