Quality of care in healthcare is important: It’s something just about anyone in the United States – and around the globe – can safely agree on. Poor quality healthcare has dire consequences on a patient’s life; much more so than, for instance, a poor quality retail experience. A shoddy pair of sneakers isn’t a matter of life or death.
As such, there is a strong collective interest in making sure that health systems function as effectively as possible.
In recent years, the healthcare landscape has begun to shift toward a value-based care model, placing greater emphasis on holistic approaches to care and improving patient outcomes at a lower cost. In order to accomplish this, healthcare organizations must ensure they are both regularly measuring quality of care as well as maintaining efforts to proactively engage patients and physicians within the healthcare network.
Organizations that provide optimal quality of care see similarly strong rates of patient engagement: The link between these two factors is significant, implying that quality of care does not begin or end with the in-person physician interaction. Instead, providing a high quality of care means maintaining engagement with patients, physicians, and communities throughout the entire care continuum.
In this post, we explore what quality of care really means within the healthcare context, why it’s so important, and a few ways in which hospitals and health systems can optimize quality of care for improved patient outcomes.
What is the Definition of Quality of Care?
Quality of care in healthcare is defined by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as “the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge.” In other words, care provided is expected to result in a net benefit for individuals or populations.
Quality of care provides assurance that healthcare efforts will consistently do more good than harm – and it’s an important distinguishing guideline that health systems must apply across all organizational functions and processes. Essentially, the term implies that any benefit gained through the healthcare system reflects patient values, satisfaction, and overall quality of life.
The World Health Organization defines quality of care with the following provisions, stating that healthcare must be:
- Safe – minimizing risk and harm, avoiding preventable injuries, and reducing medical errors
- Effective – providing services based on scientific knowledge and evidence-based guidelines
- Timely – reducing delays in care
- Efficient – delivering care in a manner that maximizes resource use and minimizes waste
- Equitable – delivering care that does not differ in quality according to characteristics such as gender, race, or socioeconomic status
- People-centered – delivering care that takes into account personal and cultural preferences
When hospitals discuss quality, it is often done in reference to specific and complex clinical data that is collected over a large period of time. In practice, quality can mean something much different: It can refer to a physician’s ability to thoroughly explain post-operative recovery procedures, a nurse’s skill in administering immunizations, or even a PCP’s appointment scheduling process.
Why is Quality of Care Important in Healthcare?
Maintaining quality of care is critical to any healthcare organization’s long-term success. It has a direct impact on patient health outcomes, preventive care, and ongoing engagement, and it also serves as an indicator of progress: It can point to whether or not the health system is improving, remaining stagnant, or declining over time, and can illuminate opportunities for growth.
In an era when most patients have hundreds of options to choose from when seeking out medical care, quality of care has to be a top priority. If not, the hospital or health system will rapidly lose patients to competitors. Those who experience a negative outcome or interaction are quick to share their feedback in online reviews and on forums. It doesn’t take much to ruin a hospital’s reputation, even if the poor experience takes place in only one line of service.
How Can Healthcare Marketers Improve Quality of Care?
While quality of care is dictated largely by the training, staffing, and ongoing development of competent physicians and providers, healthcare marketers can have a substantial impact. As mentioned previously, quality of care is not limited to the interactions that take place directly between physician and patient: It begins with the very first communications a consumer has with the health system, whether they’re scheduling an appointment or simply filling out a form online.
The following are a few strategies that healthcare marketers can leverage to increase engagement and improve overall quality of care:
Utilize Health Analytics Insights and Employ Targeted Messaging
When hospitals and healthcare organizations take advantage of rich customer insights via health analytics, the benefit is twofold:
First, providers can use analytics insights to customize treatments and prevent or manage chronic conditions for better patient outcomes. Using data sourced from the EHR – including details on a particular chronic health condition, patient behavior, and current or past care programs – physicians can better personalize care delivery and make informed recommendations regarding treatment and continued care.
Second, propensity modeling, a family of multivariate statistical analyses, helps healthcare marketers identify specific demographic subsets with a healthcare CRM and use this information to create unique personas and targeted precision marketing campaigns to both consumers and existing patients. This allows for personalized, targeted messaging that empowers consumers to seek out the care they need and make informed decisions throughout their healthcare journey.
Armed with this information, healthcare organizations can build, launch, and manage multi-channel campaigns that target at-risk demographics, consumers with specific conditions, and even community-wide population health initiatives. All of this helps proactively guide patients towards the right type of care – at exactly the right time.
Empower the Whole Healthcare System
Physicians, not surprisingly, are central to a health system’s ability to provide quality of care. An Annual CEO Healthcare Survey found physician engagement is equally as critical to healthcare quality improvement initiatives.
Ninety percent of hospital and health system executives, in fact, say that physician engagement is the most promising means of improving performance and physicians’ commitment to patients – so, needless to say, physicians cannot be ignored when it comes to organizational outreach and nurturing.
Similar to a healthcare CRM, a physician relationship management (PRM) solution can help create and track targeted physician messaging based on demographic, psychographic, social, behavioral, clinical, and other physician information (i.e., claims data) contained in a single repository.
With these insights in place, healthcare organizations can attract new physicians, retain existing physicians, and ensure physician needs are met using robust tracking and reporting capabilities. They can also use referral data to look for sources of patient leakage
Hospitals and healthcare organizations can strategically leverage consumer, patient, and physician insights to build long-term relationships, personalize care, and drive engagement. Ultimately, these initiatives help to improve quality of care, boost health outcomes, and ultimately establish patients for life.