The reliability and validity of adverse-event measures of the quality of health care
Walshe, Kieran (1998)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
The quality of healthcare is increasingly the subject of scrutiny by a range of stakeholders, including healthcare provider organisations, health professionals and their representative bodies, healthcare purchasers and funders, policy makers and national governments, patients and users of health services. The use of a variety of quality measures has become widespread in the healthcare systems of many developed countries, including the United Kingdom. The twin tasks of measuring and improving the quality of care - often termed quality assurance - have been addressed by new arrangements for professional accountability, new approaches to managing and comparing organisational performance, and new statutory and legal mechanisms. Adverse events in healthcare, which can be loosely defined as instances which indicate or may indicate that a patient has received poor quality care, offer an important opportunity for quality measurement and improvement. There is extensive evidence that adverse events are relatively common, that they can have serious and lasting impacts on patients, and that they represent a considerable cost to healthcare organisations. Equally importantly, evidence in healthcare and experience in other sectors suggests that adverse events offer an important insight into the strengths and weaknesses of healthcare processes, and an invaluable opportunity to bring about improvements in the quality of care. Adverse events have been used quite widely, particularly in the United States of America, as the basis of a number of measures of the quality of healthcare. However, these measures have rarely been developed and tested rigorously before they have entered widespread usage, and there has been considerable debate about their advantages and disadvantages. A series of empirical studies were undertaken, using data collected through the use of adverse-event measures of quality in a British acute hospital, aimed at investigating the validity and reliability of those measures. The results showed that the adverse-event measures being tested had moderate to good face, content and construct validity. Although their validity was capable of improvement, it was still clear that they were measuring meaningful and important dimensions of the quality of healthcare. However, the reliability of the measures being tested was more mixed. While experimental studies of interrater and intrarater reliability indicated that they had moderate to good reliability (though, again, it was capable of improvement) observational studies suggested that the reliability in actual use might be lower than that found during testing. This research concludes that adverse-event measures of quality are important measures of the quality of healthcare, which should be used in healthcare quality assurance with two main provisos. Firstly, the development of measures should be more rigorous, and should pay more attention to both validity and reliability issues. Secondly, the routine use of such measures should incorporate some element of ongoing reliability testing, in order to ensure that good reliability is maintained.
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