Indications of the Quality of Quality Indicators: The Quality Indicators Movement Seeks Qualitative Measures
Sociology Department University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, USA
For the past three decades, manufacturers and service organizations have focused on measurement of quality?quality indicators?as the key to improvements and even survival. ?Sigma Six,? ?Lean Production? and the medical ?Quality Indicators? efforts stressed the necessity of standardized quantifiable measures to enable organizations to study and then improve their processes and products. Entire industries devoted to quality indicators exist to serve these goals.
Recently, however, heresy has emerged. The key medical journals have questioned the value of standard quality indicators. Their articles argue for more specific measures of quality that closely examine specific events in situ; they recognize qualitative, locally examined, and entirely contextual reflections of quality are necessary to effect improvement and reduce medical errors?arguing improvements to problems and medical errors are primarily found via contextually rich understandings of what specifically caused the problems and what resolved the problems.
In this presentation, we discuss the increasing appreciation of qualitative methods in medical research on quality measures?an appreciation that recognizes many of qualitative methods? strengths while also identifying some of the weaknesses in the heretofore orthodoxy of quantitatively-based quality indicators.