What Does High-Quality Care Really Mean?
posted by The Live Better Team | October 3, 2019
Most people want high-quality products and services—whether it’s produce, electronics, auto repairs or a massage, we want our purchases to be affordable and dependable. The same is true in healthcare, but high-quality healthcare can be hard to define.
Although the meaning of quality in healthcare and the metrics used to measure it have changed over the years, medical professionals agree that high-quality healthcare is:
Effective: Healthcare providers should practice evidence-based medicine, that is, providing care in a way that prevents overusing or underusing medical services.
Efficient. High-quality healthcare is also efficient, which means it is not wasteful of resources, time, money or energy.
Equitable. Equity in healthcare means providing every patient with the same level of quality despite differences in gender, ethnicity, geographic location or socioeconomic status.
Patient-centered. Providing care that is respectful of the patient’s needs and preferences, and allowing those values to guide care decisions, is a cornerstone of high-quality healthcare.
Safe. Healthcare providers should prioritize their patient’s safety in every interaction.
Timely. High-quality healthcare allows patients to get the care they need without potentially harmful or costly delays.
There are many misconceptions about what it means to get good care. Many people think that more expensive care equals higher quality care, for example, but that isn’t always the case.
Perhaps the hospital is more expensive than a surgical center for the same procedure, or the cost of a brand-name medication is higher than its generic counterpart. In many cases, the quality (safety, effectiveness, timeliness, etc.) of these services is the same regardless of cost.
Another misconception is that more care is better care, but this is rarely true. Let’s say you were referred to a specialist who ordered a CT scan, even though you already got one under the direction of your primary care physician. You might think that your specialist is thorough, but in reality, this care is unnecessarily subjecting you to higher medical costs and radiation exposure.
Now that you have a better understanding of what high-quality care is and isn’t, it’s important to know what you can do to make sure you’re getting good medical care. Here are some tips:
Look for healthcare providers that post quality information on their website. Many health systems are required by payers (like Medicare) to share their quality data online. This data can be hard to interpret, but many providers share their overall quality scores, which are calculated using patient satisfaction surveys, patient health outcomes (meaning whether a patient was sicker or healthier after getting treatment), and other metrics, such as the percentage of patients who get preventive health screenings.
Be involved in your care. Studies show that patients who are engaged in their health experience better health outcomes. One way to do this is by making sure you understand what your providers tell you. Try taking notes at your appointment, repeat what your provider says in your own words and keep asking questions until you understand.
Have informed conversations with your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options, and ask the following questions to increase the likelihood that your care is effective, efficient, equitable, patient-centered and safe:
You can also use these resources provided by Choosing Wisely to get specific information about different conditions, and when treatment is truly necessary.
“Quality of Care.” Center for Medicare Advocacy.
“Six Domains of Health Care Quality.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
“What is Quality?” Cal Hospital Compare.
“‘Good quality’ health care – what does this mean?” Maine Quality Counts.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.