Why Measurement Matters

Dr. Shane Sinclair

October 30, 2020

Why measurement matters.

Love, compassion, joy, heart-ache – annals line library walls, music from all genres share in these recurrent themes; poetry, movies, sacred texts - even dinner table discussions revolve around, what most people believe to be, life’s most important expressions. However, a common ideology surrounding such emotions is these feelings cannot not be seen or quantified and that very elusive nature gives rise to a perception of value, truth, significance.

A standard practice in healthcare is to collect data. Data is the cornerstone of quality improvement. Therefore, if we want to improve something: a program, a treatment, or a system, we need to first measure things. But, how do we know if we are measuring the right things? Often in healthcare we measure things like: number of patient visits, numbers of individuals served, visit type, bed capacity, wait times  and average days of admission. It does not take much to pull these stats from our electronic medical records and to generate a report on health system performance—but what do these metrics say about the quality of care and  other factors  that patients identify as key central  indicators of a  high-performing  healthcare system?  

Dr. Don Berwick, a notable health quality expert, actually makes a plea for less measurement. This assertion may run counterintuitive if you are a proponent of health quality, however it is not that he is opposed to measurement, rather  that it is “unwise and irresponsible” to waste health care provider’s time to  measure things and to generate data that  is under-utilized or does not lead to  real change[1]. A recent report by the Beryl Institute[2], a leading  institute in measuring and advancing the patient experience, suggests that that compassion—the way nature by which care is given  and not simply the treatment or intervention itself, lies at the heart of health quality. It is argued that subjective and experiential components of the patient experience are vital indicators of health quality—factors  that need to be measured and integrated into our healthcare system scorecards,  dashboards and quality improvement reports.  

We refer back to Dr. Berwick’s comments, it is unwise, and  potentially dangerous, to create reports that have  little bearing  on things that actually  matter or cause us to make broad inferences about the quality of healthcare based on finite data.

Most health care organizations recognize that a quintessential marker of quality care is compassion. So it begs the question, if compassion is so fundamental  to the delivery of health care services and to transforming the system, should we not be measuring it? Based on the logic provided above and recent research on the topic—we believe we  should.  The challenge is that due to the apparent intangible nature of compassion and  a lack of valid and reliable measures of compassion, we have not, until now.

The Compassion Research Lab, in  a recent systematic review of compassion measures, discovered that there was no single tool that measured compassion in a comprehensive or methodologically rigorous fashion. That is not to suggest that through team huddles, staff meetings and strategic sessions there are not discussions about how to ensure compassion is embedded in our patient care,  our programs and the organizational culture—rather we  had noreliable and standardized means to  do so.

The Sinclair Compassion Questionnaire (SQQ) addresses this issue  and provides healthcare providers, teams and organizations with the ‘gold standard’ patient reported compassionmeasure. The SCQ is the combination of science and sensibility—developed with the most rigorous science and the sensibility of patient and healthcare providers perspectives from inception to implementation.  

To learn more about the Sinclair Compassion Questionnaire visit: compassionmeasure.com

Photo cred:Charles Deluvio on Unsplash




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