Remember this old medical joke: the operation was successful, but the patient died? It has become a cliché that often characterizes business operations and military activities. The quip perfectly describes the relationship between quality and safety.
A properly executed surgical procedure performed in an unsafe manner – one that leads to a surgical wound infection due to the failure to administer prophylactic antibiotics – may be of high quality technically but entirely unsafe. Patient safety must always accompany quality care as an equally primary concern. In many ways, safety is tied to quality because it ensures that patients do not have bad outcomes. Medical processes provide treatment and safety structure to healthcare delivery, but bad outcomes result from not following established processes or using untested or ad hoc processes. And if the impact is not measured, it cannot be satisfactorily changed or modified when it delivers unintended or unsatisfactory outcomes. Unproven methods get in the way of providing good care. The limitations of rigid protocols based solely on expert opinion – cookbook medicine – stem from their lack of a feedback loop based on the regular evaluation of processes and their related outcomes. Every system requires constant monitoring to identify corrections to problems and enhancements requiring implementation.
Quality and safety are forever linked. What is your perspective on the relationship between quality and safety? I look forward to your thoughts, so please submit your comments in this post.