Definitions of quality

There are a number of definitions for the quality of health care and health services but no universally accepted definition (See Raven et al 2012). What is quality in maternal and neonatal health care?

Others have simplified the concepts even further, for example: good quality services should be effective, safe and acceptable to the user of the health service (Godlee 2009).

There are fewer definitions for quality within the context of maternal and newborn health; one commonly cited definition is:

Quality of care is the degree to which maternal health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of timely and appropriate treatment for the purpose of achieving desired outcomes that are both consistent with current professional knowledge and uphold basic reproductive rights (Hulton et al 2000).

The majority of definitions attempt to capture the dimensions of quality (such as safety, effectiveness and acceptability), which may also be known as ‘characteristics of care’ or similar. These dimensions of quality are important to consider when designing, implementing and evaluating quality improvement programmes, and are discussed further in the section on dimensions of quality.

It is important to differentiate between ‘quality of care’ and ‘quality of services’ and differing conceptual interpretations:
  • In healthcare literature the emphasis is on the individuality of the patient-provider interaction, so the focus is on the ‘care’ provided (see Khouzam 2002).
  • In health systems literature the ‘provider’ of care is the health service, so the focus is on the quality of health services.

In keeping with the systems oriented perspective of this resource our focus is on the quality of services rather than care, which generally refers to the specific care provided to an individual by a service provider. The resource also focuses on strategic quality improvement strategies (discussed further in Section C) rather than specific interventions.

Definitions of quality was last modified: June 18th, 2015 by admin

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