MANAGING AND IMPROVING QUALITY 75

Joint Commission collects data on 57 inpatient measures; 31 of these are currently made public with others scheduled to be publicly reported soon (Chassin et al., 2010). The focus is now on maxi- mizing health benefits to patients. They recommend that quality measures be based on four criteria:

  1. The measure must be based on research that shows improved outcomes. More than one research study is required for documentation.
  2. Reports document that evidence-based practice has been given. Aspirin following an acute myocardial infarction is an example.
  3. The process documents desired outcome. Appropriately administering medications is an example.
  4. The process has minimal or no unintended adverse effects (Chassin et al., 2010)

Measured standards are used extensively in industrial settings to reveal errors. However, the same cannot be said when measuring human behavior, which can vary and still be effective. Also, if the organization embraces these systems to such an extent that all variance is discour- aged, then innovation is also suppressed. Improvement in quality is sacrificed at the expense of innovative ideas and processes; organizations fail to allow input, become stagnant, and cease to be effective. This is the danger of all living systems that depend on outside input for survival. This is not to say that quality systems are not essential. They are. Organizations must find ways to foster creativity and innovation without compromising quality management.

How Cost Affects Quality Quality measures can also reduce costs. Wasted resources is an example. These include the time nurses spend looking for missing supplies or lab results, the costs of agency nurses because of unfilled positions, and delays in patient discharge due to a lack of coordination or an adverse event (e.g., medication error).

Using the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (2009) project, Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB), Unruh, Agrawal, and Hassmiller (2011) found that improving quality reduces costs. Specifically, the researchers report that in a three-year period, RN overtime was reduced, RN turnover was lowered, and fewer patients suffered falls.

Evidence-Based Practice Evidence-based practice (EBP) suggests that using research to decide on clinical treatments would improve quality of care, and that might be the case. Barriers, however, prevent EBP from being widely used by nurses. Such barriers, consistent across settings, include lack of time, autonomy over their practice, ability to find and assess evidence, and support from administra- tion (Brown et al., 2008).

Furthermore, EBP is most reliable when the research study includes a rigorous design (Hader, 2010), and when more than one study has confirmed the results (Chassin et al., 2010). These are not easily surmountable hurdles due to the fast-paced clinical environment and the barriers mentioned above.

Electronic Medical Records Similar to the argument that EBP improves quality, electronic medical records (EMR) should do so as well. Instant access to identical records should improve accuracy and speed commu- nication among care providers. Kazley and Ozcan (2008), however, found limited correlation between the use of EMR and 10 quality indicators in their study of more than 4,000 hospitals in the U.S. In a review of the literature, Chan, Fowles, and Weiner (2010) could not link quality indicators and EMR. Cebul (2008), however, did find direct correlation between the use of EMR and the quality of care provided to diabetic patients. EMR use, is expected to expand and will provide more data for comparison with quality.

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