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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Healthcare quality – then and now

I’m usually good at remembering birthdays and anniversaries, but this year a significant milestone nearly slipped by me – as of this month, the ISO 9000 family of quality management standards is 25 years old.

It’s gone through three revisions over the years, most recently (and probably most significantly for healthcare) in 2008. That revision took into account issues relevant to service industry providers like, say, hospitals, and made it harder for critics to dismiss ISO 9001 as just manufacturing standards.

These days, of course, DNV Healthcare Inc., the new kid on the hospital accreditation block, surveys hospitals for compliance with both ISO 9001:2008 standards and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Conditions of Participation. And late last year, The Joint Commission announced it was joining forces with SGS Group “to offer hospitals and critical access hospitals in the United States the option of pursuing both accreditation and certification to various ISO and industry best practice standards beginning in early 2012.”

It’s interesting – and very encouraging – to me to see how much the healthcare industry has learned from manufacturing and other industries since the turn of the century. There was certainly a time, not so very long ago, when healthcare was positively insular in its practices and very much of the opinion that the lessons learned by airlines, car makers, and electronic device manufacturers had little practical application in hospitals. Now, you’d be hard pressed to find a facility that isn’t using “pre-flight” checklists and at least pondering how it might use lean techniques. Many now have Six Sigma green and black belts walking the halls.

Here’s hoping that within the next 25 years, the next big thing in quality management will emerge from healthcare and not just be adopted by it.

What do you think other industries could learn from healthcare organizations right now?