Those tireless medical researchers, managers and clinicians devoted to improving the quality of healthcare are tired of getting no respect.
According to J. Duncan Moore Jr.'s recent report from the Institute of Medicine in Washington, those involved in the healthcare-quality movement are starting to feel like the Rodney Dangerfields of healthcare because their efforts often are ignored or misinterpreted.
But rather than wringing their hands, the quality crowd should promote a "sharing in caring" strategy. Sharing requires improved communication between better-informed, more demanding patients and their quality-conscious, service-oriented health-care providers. This enhanced relationship would draw the close attention of two other interested parties-payers and insurers.
Thus, the four sides of the healthcare square would be bound together by information and performance. The result would be a value-driven healthcare system that required accountability and responsibility from all four sides.
That's not to say all participants will agree on the meaning of quality. Many patients believe quality is measured by choice, easy access, good service and a personal relationship with providers. Practitioners and researchers believe quality indicates primarily the technical process of care. Payers and insurers believe a vital component is the cost of care.
To bridge these gaps in perception, the quality movement needs to forge closer ties with those committed to improving service and patient satisfaction. If patients are more involved in decisionmaking, they are more likely to follow and monitor treatment strategies. That makes it easier to measure and enhance quality.
Although healthcare providers have made strides in customer service and quality measurements, more effort and commitment are needed. Hospital and health system managers must continue to press ahead with outcomes studies and benchmarking measurements. They also should encourage physicians to become more patient-friendly and service oriented.
Once the forces of communication are in line, the sharing in caring process becomes more viable.