Quality Improvement in Healthcare
The healthcare field is arguably the most important science we have learned for human development and survival. Sure, physics can determine how earth’s gravity works in tandem with our moon and solar activity to create weather patterns, but whether or not we have a thunderstorm this evening simply doesn’t matter as much as whether or not we can cure a potentially fatal disease or improve the overall health of mankind. Just as physics can provide better information with more reliable data, healthcare can better serve the patient with more data. This concept includes more than simply knowing the available cures for an illness, but also involves the quality of healthcare and ability to treat each case individually, providing treatment suitable for both the disease and the patient. Information is the key to this process, but what we do with the information will be the doors that are opened with this key. One of the first doors that has been opened is that of the quality improvement in healthcare industry as a whole.
Data is meaningless if it isn’t delivered properly. Delivery is more than simply forwarding the results of a study, patient history or insight into a new method of curing diseases. But to have everything presented in a user-friendly and easily understood manner. However, the more traditional way of storing data didn’t make this possible because each office or location stored their own data. This meant that all records were being safely controlled, however, the need for sharing across different locations was being seen as a necessity, especially to be more efficient in providing care.
To turn siloed data into free-flowing informative documentation, many concerns had to be tackled; one of course being privacy and governance of patient’s information. How can you deliver data to different locations, still have it protected and increase the ability for physicians to perform their duties more effectively? You need to have a system in place that makes all this available.
Knowledge of the patient’s health history is integral to providing appropriate treatment. But, more importantly, many patients’ histories reveal trends and patterns in diagnoses and treatments for many others. We may like to think of ourselves as unique, yet this isn’t the case when it comes to much in the realm of health and healthcare. Symptoms can be quite similar. Family history can indicate future problems. And all of this combined together and sorted through can lead physicians to knowing what is happening sooner rather than later.
Going along with the previous point that when it comes to health, most of us are not all that unique, but suffer the same sorts of indicators, which tell a health professional what the patient is dealing with. Indicators such as fever, cough, pain, and even recent travel location begin to spell out a pattern that is definable and more selective to what is occurring. Without collected information to know specific characteristics of an ailment, valuable time could be wasted in research and trial and error treatments.
Combining the data concerning both patient and illness or disease is perhaps the definition of the doctor’s job, now made more accurate and efficient. But correlating the data and patterns isn’t something that is done on paper or by simple computations. Specific software systems take in all data and are designed to handle the nuances that distinguish healthcare from any other industry, and produce actionable and data-driven reports and documentation.
Although much of the focus here has been on a doctor/patient relationship, quality improvement in healthcare reaches far beyond this. Being able to remove waste, redundancies and errors also are contributing factors to improvement. Many of these behind-the-scenes aspects may not be noticeable every time you walk into a hospital or clinic, but having a culture of quality working from the ground up in an organization will translate to better service, better outcomes, and in the long-term, reducing the overall cost of healthcare.
We have the good fortune that the quality improvement in healthcare is an active and ongoing discussion. By the very nature of all things, there is always room for more improvement. The ways healthcare can be improved are generally agreed upon; the means to attain such goals are open to debate and vary from organization to organization. With careful planning and consideration, we move the conversation to the forefront with evidence to back up decisions being made and more real-time answers for those seeking medical advice and those who work to serve those patients.