Patients, providers will help determine health-care quality

First off, I offer a retraction to Pontiac Fiero owners and enthusiasts.

In last month’s column, I referenced an apparent lack of long-term quality in the model. While there aren’t many on the road today, I’ve learned this has not diminished the car’s popularity with folks who still drive them – specifically, members of enthusiast forums with whom I had the pleasure of corresponding. Apparently, quality may be best-defined in the eye of the driver. So, to Fiero fans, I retract this reference and offer up the Pinto instead.

All kidding aside, perhaps parallels can be made between measuring quality outcomes across our respective industries: health care and automotive. For years, the automotive industry maintained statistics such as time between 0 and 60 mph (my favorite stat when I was a younger driver) and miles per gallon – mpg (my favorite as an adult). Vehicle safety also has become a key quality indicator. Essentially, car buyers have to reference only a few key indicators to make an informed purchase. With gasoline at $4 per gallon or more, I’d venture to say that mpg may become the key measure the majority of consumers pay attention to moving forward.

The health-care industry is a different story all together, in that we have limited standardized outcome stats – no “health-care mpg” or similar measures to advertise or showcase across the industry. However, as professionals, we do understand that improving the health-care industry requires the pursuit of “The Triple Aim”: improving the experience of care, improving the health (outcomes) of populations and reducing per capita costs of health care.

As the concept of agreeing on standardized industry outcome measures is in the early stages of development, we thought we’d have a better shot at assessing what patients perceive are important quality factors in the experience of care. So, we asked 30 Axis Health System staff members and patients this question and took the top 10 responses and built an online survey.

At press time, 95 people from Southwest Colorado and beyond had completed the survey. The most statistically significant of these initial responses included the following:

86 percent of respondents indicated having providers who are qualified and well-trained as very important.

65 percent indicated that being treated as a whole person (including respect for lifestyle choices and beliefs) was very important.

61 percent indicated that being seen quickly and efficiently was important.

For the remaining seven factors, percentage of response was fairly evenly dispersed between “very important” and “important” – with statistically insignificant percentages of “somewhat important,” “neutral” or “not important” responses indicated for all 10 factors.

Setting benchmarks for quality for the health-care industry will likely be influenced by patients and providers alike, so focusing on patient perceptions of the experience of care made sense as a starting point. Initial survey results have indicated useful factors on which to focus – thanks to all participants.

We’ll continue to make the survey available at www.surveymonkey.com/s/KXDD2RS in coming months. It’s an exciting time to be a health-care enthusiast. Please stay tuned and do keep in touch.

Mark White is the director of quality for Axis Health System. Reach him at mwhite@axishealthsystem.org or (970) 335-2217.