The Demand for Quality Healthcare–Who Cares?

Industry Insights from Paul Meade, M. Sc, MPH

Quality measures in healthcare have been sadly lacking for many years, despite the recognition that this information was needed to optimize healthcare delivery. Information technology is the key driver to obtaining quality measures. Advances in outcomes research, access to claims information, greater data processing capabilities, integration of information systems, implementation of electronic medical records, and accurate and meaningful quality measures will lead to vast improvements in the delivery of optimal healthcare. But who cares?

It is likely that quality measures will lead to the greatest improvements in healthcare, and ultimately drive costs down. And this makes us all winners! When all healthcare providers are accountable not only for the care they offer, but also for the quality of that care, then the economics of the system will improve to generate the greatest value. As the saying goes, “The most expensive treatment is the one that doesn’t work.” Quality measures have a way of weeding out the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of a system. And who doesn’t want the most effective healthcare at the least cost!

One potential unintended consequence of improving outcomes and quality measures is the temptation to ration healthcare delivery. Remember, quality is a function of cost verses benefit to derive maximum value. So going too far down the path of quality could mean a diminishing return on investment and a sacrifice of needed healthcare services. Finding the optimal balance between quality and value will present some challenges to healthcare administrators. The ethical implications of interpreting quality measure will lead to policies and laws governing the use of this information, whether it is at the aggregate or individual level. But if we are to improve the value of healthcare we need to keep quality in our sights and safeguard against potential pitfalls. It’s time we all started caring about quality in healthcare.

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