An introduction to critical paths

Qual Manag Health Care. Fall 1992;1(1):45-54.


A critical path defines the optimal sequencing and timing of interventions by physicians, nurses, and other staff for a particular diagnosis or procedure. Critical paths are developed through collaborative efforts of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and others to improve the quality and value of patient care. They are designed to minimize delays and resource utilization and to maximize quality of care. Critical paths have been shown to reduce variation in the care provided, facilitate expected outcomes, reduce delays, reduce length of stay, and improve cost-effectiveness. The approach and goals of critical paths are consistent with those of total quality management (TQM) and can be an important part of an organization's TQM process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Protocols / standards*
  • Length of Stay
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Program Development / methods
  • Research Design
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration*
  • United States