Technology and the Six Domains of Healthcare Quality

How the right IT tools can support a healthcare organization’s quest for quality


There is no better time for the health IT community to come together under one umbrella to raise national awareness of the benefits information technology can bring to the US health system. National Health IT (NHIT) Week is a nationwide awareness week focused on the value of health IT. Each year, NHIT Week Partners educate industry and policy stakeholders on the value of health IT for the US healthcare system. Every Tuesday leading up to NHIT Week, our valued partners will share their voice and experience on how they demonstrate the value of health IT.

Now more than ever, quality is the driving force behind healthcare, with providers measured and reimbursed based on quality. And healthcare quality professionals are at the center of it all.

These dedicated leaders address many issues in the healthcare ecosystem, from patient safety and risk management to core measures and incident management. Moreover, these valuable teams ensure their healthcare facilities meet specific requirements set forth by accrediting bodies, such as The Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

This is no easy task, but luckily, some remarkable and readily available technologies support this effort. We know technology can’t ensure healthcare quality any more than a state-of-the-art power saw and nail gun can ensure a carpenter produces a quality piece of furniture.

While a skilled healthcare, quality professional remains necessary, just like the carpenter analogy, the right tools can make the job a whole lot easier.

Defining Healthcare Quality

The Institute of Medicine defines healthcare quality by the following six attributes. Each attribute also includes a few ways the right technology can help support these initiatives.

1. Safety — Patients should not be harmed while receiving the care that is intended to help them. A wide array of technologies can help support this effort. For example, clinical decision support software can alert clinicians to potential adverse drug interactions or possible alternate patient diagnoses. Similarly, barcode-based closed-loop medication management (CLMM) systems can ensure the right patient receives the right medication in the right dose via the right route and at the right time. Even a basic technology, such as a robust document management system, can alert key personnel to patient record deficiencies that can negatively impact regulatory compliance and the overall quality of care.

2. Patient-centered — Care delivery must respect and respond to individual patient preferences, needs and values. Furthermore, these values should guide all clinical decisions. To deliver true patient-centered care, it is essential that all clinical stakeholders have a comprehensive view into each patients’ entire medical history. This includes discrete data, clinical documentation and all medical images. An enterprise content management (ECM) system and enterprise imaging solution that includes a vendor neutral archive (VNA) and enterprise viewing components can help make all patient information accessible from core clinical platforms, such as an EHR or PACS, providing an informational foundation for patient-centered care.

3. Timely — Reducing wait times and potentially harmful delays for both those who receive and give care has a huge impact on quality. Technologies, such as tracking systems and automated workflow software that streamline patient traffic and clinical processes by automating manual tasks and accelerating cycle times, can help ensure timely delivery of care.

4. Effective — Evidence-based care helps ensure optimal outcomes and avoid both underuse and misuse. Data analytics and technologies for population health management can help clinicians prescribe the most-effective treatments for patients, because these technologies assess the information contained in a patient’s medical record and compare it to treatment plan results of patients with similar profiles.

5. Efficient — Delivering quality care requires reducing waste, including the waste of equipment, supplies, ideas and energy. There are literally hundreds of technologies focused on reducing waste to deploy in all areas of a hospital. In fact, handling paper is often a source of efficiency breakdown. Intelligent data capture, automated workflow and document management technologies can minimize the costly creation, routing and retention of paper in all areas of the enterprise — from accounts receivable to human resources to the health information management departments.

6. Equitable — Care should not vary in quality because of personal characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, geographic location and socioeconomic status. Modern technologies, such as telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, bring the highest levels of care to even the most rural locations. These tools are finally breaking down the physical barriers to care that often prevented true equity in the past.

As you can see, while achieving healthcare quality is more important and challenging than it ever has been, several technologies can help providers manage this challenge. Make sure you are equipping your quality professionals with the tools they need to optimize their impact on the health system and its patients.