Why Quality Matters: The Changing Healthcare Delivery Model
By Brian Taylor, AuD
In fits and starts, physicians and other healthcare professionals are beginning to realize that the convergence of wireless sensors, social networking, mobile connectivity and robust data management systems will profoundly impact the future. This transformation of medicine is likely to put a premium on healthcare professionals that place the patient firmly in the center of the clinical experience. These same forces will undoubtedly affect audiologists and their support staffs, and quality is likely to be a key differentiator in a disruptive future.
In this new world, physicians and other healthcare professionals are more likely to be reimbursed for the quality of their results, rather than the sheer number of procedures they order. Hospitals and clinics that demonstrate higher-than-average patient satisfaction scores will enjoy higher rates of reimbursement from federally funded programs. Patients are even joining the quality bandwagon as many are demanding greater transparency when shopping for medical services. In essence, patients are demanding to be treated more like customers. Consumer-centered health care is gradually supplanting the antiquated, paternalistic model in which the practitioner is never questioned and has near omnipotent authority over the uninformed patient. Out of this paradigm shift comes the quality movement. For audiologists this means the use of report cards, key performance indicators, and other quality strategies and tactics, if they want to stay relevant in a highly competitive marketplace. If you are like the typical practitioner, there is a good chance these concepts related to quality sound a little strange to you now. This is why I wrote Quality in Audiology: Design and Implementation of the Patient Experience, to help you prepare for some of these changes.
Interestingly, hearing aid manufacturers are very familiar with many of these concepts. In an effort to rise above their fierce competition, manufacturers have been obligated to standardize quality within their production lines by using tools such as Six Sigma and Total Quality Management. At the heart of these quality tools is a drive to eliminate variance. Eliminating variance is a worthy goal for the optimization of medical devices, but clinicians know all-too-well that each patient has built-in variability. Thus, many of the quality concepts and tools device manufacturers have come to rely on to incrementally improve quality don’t work well with patients. This paradox of quality within healthcare, as the book suggests, can be overcome through the standardization of quality around six patient staging areas.
The purpose of this book is to bring a level of practicality to the implementation of quality within an audiology clinic. As the book proposes, quality is improved mainly through your grassroots initiatives: procedures, programs, and behaviors you implement, measure, and manage in your clinic. This grassroots perspective requires audiologists and other professionals associated with hearing heath care to reexamine the concept of quality. According to the International Standards Organization, which acts as a sort of quality police for device manufactures, quality is the totality of characteristics, including people, processes, products environments, standards, and learning, of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs. This definition suggests we improve ourselves and our ability to create quality in the world around us through innovation and the judicious use of best practice standards.
From a workaday, clinical standpoint, quality is meeting the requirements and expectations of patients and stakeholders in the business. In short, quality is probably best defined as the standardization of individual excellence. Rather than rely on academic boards and government agencies, the quest for better quality begins with self-motivated and dedicated audiologists and support staff who can use data to make better decisions about their patients. Quality in Audiology will get you on the path to continuous improvement in your clinic.