I n today’s highly competitive health care environment, each member of the health care organization must be accountable for the quality and cost of health care. Concern about quality gained national attention after publication of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) reports on medical errors in 1999 (IOM, 1999) and their later recommendations for health pro- fessionals’ education (IOM, 2003). Additionally, concern about cost continues unabated. Both quality and cost containment are found in the concept of total quality management, which has evolved into a model of continuous quality improvement designed to improve system and process performance. Risk management is integrated within a quality management program.

Quality Management Quality management moved health care from a mode of identifying failed standards, problems, and problem people to a proactive organization in which problems are prevented and ways to improve care and quality of care are sought. This paradigm shift involves all in the organization and promotes problem solving and experimentation.

A quality management program is based on an integrated system of information and accountability. Clinical information systems can provide the data needed to enable organizations to track activities and outcomes. For example, data from clinical information systems can be used to track patient wait times from admitting to outpatient testing to admission in an inpatient care unit. Delays in the process can be identified so appropriate staff and resources are available at the right time to decrease delays and increase efficiency and patient satisfaction. Methods can be devised to discover problems in the system without blaming the “sharp end,” the last individual in the chain to act (e.g., the nurse gives a wrong medication). The system must be accepted and used by the entire staff.

Total Quality Management Total quality management (TQM) is a management philosophy that emphasizes a commitment to excellence throughout the organization. The creation of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, TQM was adopted by the Japanese after World War II and helped transform their industrial development. Dr. Deming based his system on principles of quality management that were originally applied to improve quality and performance in the manufacturing industry. They are now widely used to improve quality and customer satisfaction in a number of service industries, including health care.


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