Dr KK Aggarwal
Every citizen in the country has a right to receive safe and quality medical treatment. Achieving universal health coverage is a target (3.8) under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3). All member states of the UN including India have committed to try to provide universal health coverage to all their citizens by the year 2030. Universal health coverage means good quality health care that is Available, Accessible, Affordable and Accountable.
The Institute of Medicine, USA (IOM, 1990) has defined quality in health care as “the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge”. The American Medical Association (AMA, 1991) has defined quality as “the degree to which care services influence the probability of optimal patient outcome”.
When a patient seeks health care, he/she looks for availability, quality and affordability. Safety, desired outcome of treatment and respect are becoming more and more important to the patients today.
It’s not just clinical care based on best practices alone that decides quality of care. Several other factors also constitute patients’ perception of quality of care such as cleanliness, reliability, responsiveness, communication, empathy, patient-centered with patient as an equal partner is decision making.
But, quality always comes at a price. Quality treatment is costlier but in the long-term, it is economical as it is associated with fewer hospital-acquired infections, complications, adverse drug reactions, re-hospitalization, as well as fewer system failures.
Quality is always preferred but it may not always be feasible because quality care may increase the cost of treatment.
So, should we focus on affordability or should we focus on quality?
Every hospital or health care establishment must try to improve and maximize quality within the resources that are available to them and with the best use of those resources. Poor quality service indicates poor utilization of resources.
Both quality and affordability need to be balanced, especially in a country like ours, which has one of the highest out of expenditures on health in the world.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own