7 Ways to Improve Quality of Care at Your Facility
Healthcare leaders and administrators play a vital role in improving patient outcomes. As a manager of a nursing facility, you’re likely juggling several responsibilities, from allocating resources to supporting the nursing professionals on your staff. You know that you want to improve the quality of care in your facility, but are left with questions about how to get started.
The idea of quality healthcare is broad, with large- and small-scale implications. In this article, we’ll explain how this concept is measured, why it matters, and key areas of focus when implementing quality improvement initiatives at your facility.
What Is Quality of Care in Healthcare?
Quality of care in nursing and other health professions measures the degree to which care being delivered follows evidence-based guidelines and helps improve patient outcomes. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) outlines six domains of quality care:
- Safe — Avoid injuring or harming patients with care that is intended to help them.
- Effective — Offer evidence-based care that achieves desired health outcomes.
- Patient-centered — Provide care that is respectful of individual patient preferences, needs, and values.
- Timely — Deliver care in a prompt manner, reducing wait times and delays in treatment and diagnosis.
- Efficient — Limit the waste of resources, including time, equipment, supplies, energy, and ideas.
- Equitable — Provide consistent care across different populations regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, location, or other characteristics.
Quality of Care Examples
This concept can be illustrated by comparing examples — of both high and low quality — for two simplified scenarios below.
Scenario 1 (Patient-Centered Care)
A nurse is assigned to give a bed bath to a patient who feels embarrassed about receiving one.
- High quality care: The nurse notices the patient’s discomfort and politely asks if she’d prefer to get one at a later time or if there’s anything she can do to make her feel less vulnerable during the procedure.
- Low quality care: The nurse doesn’t notice the patient’s discomfort and proceeds to give a bed bath as quickly as possible in order to get her tasks done for the day.
Scenario 2 (Safety)
One nurse on a unit calls out sick for the day, and the patient volume well exceeds the number of nurses available to deliver safe care.
- High quality care: The nurse manager calls in a float nurse to help even out the patient load and prevent the other nurses from getting overwhelmed.
- Low quality care: The nurse manager decides to assign another nurse two extra patients because she knows this particular nurse works quickly. The unexpected workload causes the nurse to make several medical errors throughout her shift.
Why Is Quality of Care Important?
The importance of quality nursing care is a foundational concept in medical practice. Quality care leads to improved patient outcomes — benefits to the health status and quality of life for patients or residents — which is a primary goal of healthcare organizations.
Unfortunately, the U.S. healthcare system often falls behind that of other countries. In fact, U.S. healthcare is among the most expensive in the world, yet studies show that the hefty price tag is often met with care that fails to meet expectations. In response, government initiatives have been created to improve safety and quality in the nation’;s long-term care residences and nursing homes.
Prioritizing high quality in your facility is also important because it’s regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and can be tied to funding. CMS assesses quality measures to maintain accountability and address quality of care issues in facilities and residences that receive Medicare or Medicaid.
Barriers to Delivering High Quality Care
Before you implement any quality improvement initiatives, it can help to understand common barriers that impede care delivery. Research has shown that different types of barriers can stem from all levels of the healthcare system, including the patient, health professional, and facility. The most common barriers include:
- Poor communication — A lack of communication between any parties in the care process can lead to low quality care. For instance, a patient who is assigned to a nurse that doesn’t speak the same language may make it difficult to be responsive to individual patient needs. Similarly, a facility leader who doesn’t communicate patient care goals to their nursing team can dampen teamwork, worsening care delivery as a whole.
- Lack of resources — Facilities that lack evidence-based resources are unable to support or train their staff to deliver care that aligns with up-to-date, research driven recommendations. This can lead to poor care practices and impact patient outcomes.
- Staff burnout — Burnout among staff can lead to higher turnover. Not only does this create unexpected gaps in staffing, but it also makes it difficult to provide consistent and safe patient care.
How to Improve Quality of Care in Healthcare
Now that you’ve learned what can lead to poor quality care, you’re likely wondering how to take steps to improve the care provided at your facility. Use the ideas below as a starting point when planning new initiatives.
1. Prioritize Training and Education
The nursing staff at your facility or residence is key to improving quality. Continuing education and training are essential to ensure that your staff is current in their understanding of the latest treatments and procedures. Targeted education and training can also reduce nurse burnout by helping your nursing staff understand the intricacies of the illnesses their patients commonly experience.
For example, nurses serving a geriatric population can be educated about conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This not only will equip them to provide safer and more effective care, but the increased vocational confidence could reduce nurse turnover levels in your organization.
2. Increase Access to Care
If a patient isn’t able to access care in a timely manner, their outcomes will be negatively affected. Reducing barriers to care is imperative to a high quality of care, such as ensuring that services are accessible in underserved areas and addressing physical limitations like transportation and cost.
In addition to physical access, make sure that your facility is considering cultural factors that could impact access to care: language, beliefs, and customs. Take steps to overcome communication barriers, connect with community groups, and educate staff members on how differing customs could impact a patient’s healthcare preferences.
3. Engage Patients and Families
Throughout their healthcare experience, patients and their families should be encouraged to ask questions, express concerns, and be included in the care process. Accounting for patient perspectives is integral to shared decision-making. This is an important part of patient-centered care that can lead to improved patient satisfaction and health outcomes, lowered costs, and special recognitions and designations awarded by outside agencies.
4. Improve Communication
Communication is key to improving quality. Focus on improving communication between staff and patients or families, ensuring that explanations of diagnoses, treatments, and medications are clear and understandable.
It’s also important to facilitate communication among your staff. Nursing professionals often have innovative solutions to problems, so it’s important that your nurse administrators are open to feedback and encourage innovation. Quality of care will benefit when all members of the healthcare team work together, collaborating and contributing to continuous improvement.
5. Measure and Monitor Quality
As you make improvements to your facility or residence, remember to track your progress. You might consider measuring patient outcomes and satisfaction, clinical processes, medical errors, patient safety, and use of healthcare resources. If you need more guidance, the CMS measure inventory provides a repository of evidence-based measures that are used to assess quality of medical care. You can use this repository to narrow down measures that are most relevant to your facility.
Frequent reflection is essential to identify where improvements can be made and if new initiatives are effective. Make sure you commit to evidence-based practices by using the best available research to guide the healthcare choices in your facility or residence.
6. Set Tangible Goals
Through monitoring quality, you can also target specific areas of care delivery that can inform goal setting. It can be helpful to set tangible and tailored goals for your facility so you can identify when your efforts are coming to fruition. Goal setting can also help you communicate the importance of quality improvement initiatives to your staff and build a sense of teamwork as you work toward these goals together.
If you’re setting goals, it’s important to make them as precise as possible. This can be done by using quantitative measures that focus on the six different domains that make up quality of care. In this way, you can make realistic yet productive strides toward providing safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable care.
7. Relay Progress Back to Staff
As you strive toward improving how you deliver care at your facility, it’s important to keep your staff engaged throughout every step of the process. In addition to soliciting ideas on how to elevate care, you should also make efforts to report any progress back to your staff to keep them engaged.
This allows you to show appreciation for staff who contribute efforts that elevate patient care and celebrate the hard work that your team has put in as a whole. Acknowledging progress can also help your staff feel seen and heard, which is one of many ways to help cultivate a healthy work environment and reduce staff turnover.
Want More Quality of Care Resources for Your Facility?
Great leaders make a commitment to continuous learning. As you take initiative to improve the quality of the care you deliver at your facility or residence, don’t miss out on the latest useful insights from trusted experts in the field.
IntelyCare editor Kayla Tyson contributed to the writing and research for this article.