Healthcare insiders know that clinical quality can be highly variable across providers. But the average patient assumes that the vast majority of providers deliver high-quality clinical care.
The graphic below illustrates the distinction between consumer and physician definitions of “quality”.
Patients’ definition of quality is often closer to what providers consider service quality: was the service available and convenient? Was my appointment on time and efficient? Was the staff courteous and helpful?
As to clinical quality, few patients anticipate a bad outcome, or do extensive research on provider quality unless facing a grave illness. And for those who do, the metrics and methods available to assess quality are hard to interpret, much less to weigh against each other. For example, I know I don’t want a post-op infection, but how much extra am I willing to pay to minimize that risk?
As consumers bear more responsibility for choice of provider—and have a greater range of options to choose from—providers must expand their quality goals beyond clinical quality to encompass service reliability, remembering that the ultimate measure of a good outcome for a patient is whether or not their problem was actually solved.