Definition of Quality

The definition of quality continues to evolve and it depends on the industry sector, type of organization, type of products and services, customer expectations, individual perceptions, and specific circumstances. Reaching agreement on what is meant by the word “quality” is essential to select appropriate performance measures, develop strategies for continuous quality improvement, meet stakeholders’ expectations, and manage quality effectively. Traditional manufacturing organizations produce physical products and they typically define quality in terms of conformance to specifications, freedom from deficiencies, fitness for use, performance to standards, meeting customer expectations, reliability, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, safety, and value for the price paid. In contrast, the outputs of many service organizations are intangible and quality may be more difficult to define and measure. Perceived quality is an inherently subjective notion and obtaining precise measures of perceived quality may be challenging even for products, let alone services. Nonetheless, quality of services is often characterized by responsiveness to customer needs, competency and courtesy of staff, consistency, communication, availability, timeliness, promptness in resolving issues, accuracy, and many other factors. There are also many definitions, domains or dimensions used to characterize quality in healthcare. For example, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) defines quality as “the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge.” As outlined below, World Health Organization (WHO) defines six areas or dimensions of quality in healthcare systems.


Dimensions of Quality in Healthcare


Dimensions of Quality Table