Is Quality Mutually Exclusive with Profitability?

I was browsing through some old notes today from past conferences and stumbled upon a really intriguing question from when I met with Infor back at ANI 2014. Thanks to technology I know that I met with Beth Meyers, Healthcare Industry Strategy Director, and Prakash Kadamba, Director of Healthcare Product Management at Infor. The question I jotted down from our discussion is the title for the blog post:

Is Quality Mutually Exclusive with Profitability?

In most industries, the company with the better quality often wins. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, quality matters a lot in the choices we make. However, if I dive a little deeper I think that value wins out over quality in many industries as well. You know you have a breakout product which provides amazing quality and amazing value.

Unfortunately, I’m sad to say that this isn’t always the case in healthcare. The reason I think it isn’t the case is that patients don’t have a good way to measure quality and I’m not sure we’ll ever get to where we can measure quality. I’d be excited if we could, but I don’t see it in the foreseeable future. We have vague representations and indicators of quality, but none of them effectively represent quality.

The best measure of quality a patient can see is “I got better.” The irony of this statement is that just because you got better doesn’t mean you got quality care. You might have gotten better based on something other than the care you received.

Back to the original question, I think you can provide amazing quality healthcare and still be profitable. Those two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. However, I also don’t think that all those doctors providing quality care are going to be profitable. Quality care does not directly determine how profitable your organization will be. What makes the difference then?

The big difference I see is how well an organization is run. How effective is your billing department? How effective is your documentation? Do you have tools that engage patients in their billing and in their care? Have you automated many patient experiences to free up time for your staff to work on the things that matter most?

Those clinics that are profitable and providing quality care are usually the ones that are looking beyond the EHR. They realize where the EHR fits into their larger strategy, but the EHR isn’t their entire strategy. That’s a big shift in mindset for many that were so myopically focused on implementing EHR as they chased after government handouts.

If you know you’re providing high quality care, but you’re not profitable, take a step back and evaluate your business. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of shortcomings on the business side that if you addressed would make you more profitable. Just don’t expect your EHR vendor to give you all the answers. They’re an important piece of the puzzle, but just one piece.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • “We have vague representations and indicators of quality, but none of them effectively represent quality.”

    But those are the standards the industry has adopted; the standards by which providers are ranked, paid and sanctioned; that EMRs and other computer tools are designed around. What a tragic, absurd, hugely expensive wild-goose chase. You can’t achieve your objective of real quality care, which you must at least approach if you are going to provide value, if you force everyone to chase after faux-quality care.

    It is rank hubris to hold an entire industry accountable to standards of quality that have been chosen because you have the tools to enforce them and that’s all there are right now. Free up providers to offer care that they believe is quality care, and free up consumers to choose according to their standards. That’s how you’ll get as close as it’s humanly possible to get to quality care.

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