From vehicle maintenance to computer programming, quality assurance is an essential part of any service profession. The healthcare industry is no different.
Because low HCAHPS scores and failure to provide meaningful clinical statistics are becoming increasingly tied to lower reimbursement levels, it’s crucial for every healthcare organization to develop a quality assurance process. A strong quality assurance program is the key to meeting patient expectations and initiating changes that improve patient comfort, clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction levels.
These four steps will help you develop an effective healthcare quality assurance program.
Step 1: Create a Steering Committee
Steering committees evaluate current policies and procedures, review applicable regulations, recommend changes, make suggestions about reporting procedures and set goals. A steering committee should establish processes that will improve patient outcomes, reduce errors, and boost HCAHPS scores.
Input from the committee helps hospital leadership set realistic quality assurance priorities and processes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Quality Assurance Guidelines contains valuable information that can help you create an effective process.
Because quality affects every area of the facility, it’s important to include members of many departments on your steering committee, including those who aren’t involved in direct patient care. For example, patient account representatives, legal consultants and clinical educators often play an indirect but important role in patient satisfaction and can be valuable committee participants. Including a cross-section of employees will help you ensure that you don’t overlook important factors that affect quality and perception of care.
Step 2: Spread the News
Your healthcare quality assurance program will only be effective if you achieve buy-in from the entire hospital community—from volunteers to nursing staff to physicians.
No matter how you share the news—departmental meetings, emails, flyers, information on the hospital intranet, etc.—make sure employees understand the reasons quality assurance is so crucial. Even if you’ve already explained the importance of patient satisfaction scores multiple times, it’s a good idea to provide several examples of the ways employee actions affect the patient experience and, in turn, HCAHPS survey results and hospital finances.
Step 3: Evaluate Results
A healthcare quality assurance program will be ineffectual if the hospital staff does not stay up to date with the information contained in reports. Reviewing information and input provided by patients, their families and staff, in addition to taking a look at performance indicators, will help you ensure your quality assurance program produces results and that benchmarks and targets are met.
Some programs and processes may require daily or weekly monitoring while monthly monitoring may be sufficient for others. Frequent updates, both positive and negative, will help your employees understand their importance in the process and increase their commitment to the quality assurance program.
Step 4: Implement Corrective Strategies
One of the most important benefits of a strong healthcare quality assurance program is the opportunity to quickly identify problems that can affect patient care or safety and make immediate changes. In some cases, that may involve additional staff training. In others, it may require updating equipment or making changes to policies that hinder your staff’s ability to provide excellent care. Determining the root cause of errors and adverse events and developing protocols to prevent or reduce them is one of the most important aspects of a quality assurance program.
Quality assurance programs not only help hospitals improve clinical outcomes but also offer an effective way to increase staff engagement by inviting team members at every level to provide their input and help improve the hospital as a whole. Initiating a new healthcare quality assurance program or revising your current process will help you prevent unpleasant surprises that can affect your community standing and reimbursement.
Learn the best practices for comparing potential medical devices for your hospital. Download the free guide, The Hospital Administrator’s Handbook to Understanding Medical Device Approvals.