Comprehensive Quality Assessment in Clinical Ethics

Journal of Clinical Ethics 30 (3):284-296 (2019)
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Scholars and professional organizations in bioethics describe various approaches to “quality assessment” in clinical ethics. Although much of this work represents significant contributions to the literature, it is not clear that there is a robust and shared understanding of what constitutes “quality” in clinical ethics, what activities should be measured when tracking clinical ethics work, and what metrics should be used when measuring those activities. Further, even the most robust quality assessment efforts to date are idiosyncratic, in that they represent evaluation of single activities or domains of clinical ethics activities, or a range of activities at a single hospital or healthcare system. Countering this trend, in this article we propose a framework for moving beyond our current ways of understanding clinical ethics quality, toward comprehensive quality assessment. We first describe a way to conceptualize quality assessment as a process of measuring disparate, isolated work activities; then, we describe quality assessment in terms of tracking interconnected work activities holistically, across different levels of assessment. We conclude by inviting future efforts in quality improvement to adopt a comprehensive approach to quality assessment into their improvement practices, and offer recommendations for how the field might move in this direction.



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Thomas V. Cunningham
Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles

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