1. Schroeder, Patricia RN, MSN, MBA

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How do we describe the quality of care and services in our organizations to the public? It's a great question with too few answers.


Within health care ranks, we have spent significant effort responding to increasing requests and demands for information about health care quality. Mostly, we have energetically defended non-disclosure and identified lists of reasons why we should not share quality data with the public. Many of those reasons are sound and responsible. Selected data might not be understandable given its technical and scientific complexity. Selected measures can be understood only in context. Selected data don't accurately convey the whole story. In a litigious society, selected data create greater risk than insight.


As consumers (as well as providers) of health care services, though, don't we want to know more about the quality of care, service and outcomes in those health care circumstances in which we are personally involved? Wouldn't lack of access to information needed to make decisions about organizations, programs and providers stifle the ability to make more informed decisions? Can we fairly defend these two opposing positions on data disclosure?


Perhaps a more thoughtful approach could be asking the question, "what does the public want to know about health care quality, and how can we help them access and understand what those data mean and don't mean?" I believe we often jump to conclusions that the quality data desired by the public are the same data we report to our organizational teams. It may be, but it also may not in any way resemble their true questions [horizontal ellipsis] like "how well do you treat pain?" or "can I assure that the care I'm receiving reflects the most current state of the art?" It is time to look beyond what data are traditionally collected, and assure that we understand what the public wants to know.


How do we describe the quality of care and services in our organizations to the public? We need to talk about it with them first.


-Patricia Schroeder RN, MSN, MBA


Journal Editor