Process Improvement is used a lot in healthcare organizations. It is a proactive well thought our task of identifying, analyzing and improving upon existing business process within an organization for optimization and to meet new standards of quality and quotas. With Process Improvement in Healthcare, there are different approaches to be considered but it often involves a systematic approach which follows a specific methodology. Many other industries and organizations devote a huge chunk of their strategic plan to process improvement. Some examples are benchmarking or lean manufacturing, each of which focuses on different areas of improvement and uses different methods to achieve the best results in the manufacturing industry.

Deming understood the importance of data and process improvement and he also popularized the concept of quality improvement. Though slightly different from process improvement, meaningful quality improvement must be data-driven.

Process Measures vs Outcome Measures


Process measures are used to indicate what a provider does in order to maintain or improve the quality of health for either healthy people or those diagnosed with an illness or health condition. These process measures typically reflect generally accepted recommendations for clinical practice. For example, a process measure reflects the percentage of people receiving preventive services such as mammograms or immunizations or blood tests. It also measures the percentage of people with diabetes who had their blood sugar tested and controlled. Hence, process measures can inform consumers about the medical care they may expect to receive for a given condition or disease and can contribute toward improving health outcomes. The majority of healthcare quality measures used for public reporting are process measures.


Outcome measures, on the other hand, are frequently reported to the government, commercial payers, and organizations that report on quality and they reflect the impact of the healthcare service or intervention on the health status of patients.  For example, outcome measure can show the percentage of patients who died as a result of surgery which is surgical mortality rates and it can also show the rate of surgical complications or hospital-acquired infections. Outcome measures are usually presumed to represent the “gold standard” in measuring quality, but an outcome is the result of numerous factors, many beyond the healthcare organization or providers’ control.


Outcome measures are important because the ultimate goal of measuring, reporting, and comparing health outcomes is to improve the patient experience of care, improve the health of populations, and reduce the per capita cost of healthcare. Some of the principles of process improvement emphasize that Managed care means managing the processes of care, not managing physicians and nurses and effort should ways be made to put the right data in the right format at the right time in the right hands.


An important application or clarification of a Deming principle. Managing care means managing the processes of care. It does not mean managing physicians and nurses. What Brent said is very true. One of the big mistakes made in the 90’s with the “managed care” movement was naively thinking that managing care meant telling physicians and nurses what to do. The reality is that you need to engage clinicians in the process because they understand the care delivery process and they are best equipped to figure out how to improve the process of care over time.  And for this reason, I very strongly believe that these changes will, in fact, ultimately be very empowering for all clinicians who try to get involved.


If clinicians are going to manage care, they definitely need data. They need the right data delivered in the right format at the right time and in the right place. And the data has to be delivered into the right hands—the clinicians involved in operating and improving any given process of care.