Basic Definitions and Criteria for the Management and Assurance of Quality in Health Care
Although health care quality has been defined in many different ways, it is probably fair to say that none has clearly captured all the elements involved. One of the more comprehensive definitions, developed for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, states that “quality health care is care that is needed and delivered in a manner that is competent, caring, cost effective and timely and that minimizes risk and achieves achievable benefits” (Barbour, 1996). This definition, though adequate, has all the grace usually found in the products of committees, of which it clearly is an example. Translated from committee jargon, the definition can be summed up as “quality health care is doing the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way.” To provide health care of high quality, then, we have to know what is the right action, seize the right time, and single-mindedly pursue the right way—a tall order, indeed.
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