Accreditation and Quality Assurance

, Volume 9, Issue 1–2, pp 92–95 | Cite as

Understanding the quality concept in health care

  • P. P. M. HartelohEmail author
Discussion Forum


During the past three decades there has been an intense debate on the quality of health care. Errors in medicine, practice variations, competence of physicians, scarcity and lack of resources have all been reasons for discussing the quality of care. A clear definition of quality should explain the nature of the debate, improve uniformity of speech and facilitate meaningful actions such as quality assurance or quality improvement. However, in due course many different definitions have been proposed and principles of quality assurance in health care have been frequently questioned, because of their industrial nature. It raises questions on our understanding of quality in health care. In this paper, we (i) explore the nature of the quality concept, (ii) explain its meaning by Wittgenstein's theory on rule-following, and (iii) argue for understanding medical care as a reflexive practice, in order to integrate the meaning of quality in medical care.


Quality Assurance Inherent Characteristic Health Care Organisation Caesarean Section Rate Normative Frame 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Policy and ManagementErasmus MC/ Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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