Basics of Health Care Quality

At University of Missouri Health Care, we encourage our patients and the public to learn about health care. Understanding the basics of health care, and how you can judge the quality of care hospitals provide, can help you make informed decisions. We believe making informed decisions is important – your health depends on it.

We understand health care quality is a complicated topic. For an explanation of some of the basics, please take a look at some frequently asked questions below. We also welcome any questions you have or suggestions for how we can make this information more useful for you. If you have questions or comments for us, please visit our Quality, Event and Safety Tracker (QUEST).

Frequently asked questions about health care quality

Get answers to some of our patients’ most commonly asked questions about health care quality.

What does “health care quality” mean?

Like any other service or product, the quality of health care varies. Some hospitals and doctors are better at treating broken bones, while others are better at treating heart attacks. When doctors, nurses and other health experts discuss health care quality, they are usually talking about how well a health care organization treats a medical condition and how that organization compares to its peers.

What makes health care so difficult?

The human body is complicated, with thousands of bones, organs and muscles, each responsible for doing its own job. On top of that, every person's body is a little bit different. That's why one medicine might work to treat you but not your brother. Because the human body is so complex and every body is different, it takes teams of experts with years of training and experience to care for each person’s health.

What affects health care quality?

Because health care is so difficult and complex, there are millions of things that can hurt or help the quality of care. Here are a few examples:

  • Experience. A doctor or hospital with more experience caring for a specific health condition can often provide better care. For example, medical research shows hospitals that treat 100 heart attack patients a year usually provide better care than hospitals that treat 10 heart attack patients a year.
  • Guidelines. Medical research has shown that by following proven guidelines of care, patients can have better treatment outcomes. For example, surgery patients are less likely to get infections if their doctors give them antibiotics before operating.
  • Training. A doctor with special training in a certain area can provide high quality care. That is why heart attack patients visit cardiologists, who are experts in the heart and blood vessels, instead of orthopaedic surgeons, who are experts in bones and joints.

Why should I be concerned with health care quality?

Everyone wants to be healthy. So when you need health care, you should look for the best. Receiving top-quality health care can help solve health problems while limiting the risk for complications – helping you live a longer, healthier life.

How can I judge the quality of care that doctors and hospitals provide?

Because health care is so complex, it's not easy to evaluate the quality of care. There is no single score you can look at to determine the best hospital. In fact, there may not always be a one best hospital.

Consider how people buy a vehicle. Do I need a minivan to drive around a family of six, or do I want a two-seat convertible sports car? What sort of gas mileage do I want? Do I need four-wheel-drive for the snow?

Deciding where to seek health care has just as many factors. There are many tools you can use to help you make decisions about where to receive health care.

Because health care quality is an important factor when choosing a hospital, MU Health Care shares information such as:

  • What is our health care organization doing to improve?
  • How does our health care system compare to others in measurements of quality?
  • What awards and reviews have we received?
  • How well do we perform in treating specific medical conditions?