Applying quality improvement principles to achieve healthy work organizations

Jt Comm J Qual Improv. 2001 Sep;27(9):469-83. doi: 10.1016/s1070-3241(01)27041-2.


Background: Health care has used total quality management (TQM)/quality improvement (QI) methods to improve quality of care and patient safety. Research on healthy work organizations (HWOs) shows that some of the same work organization factors that affect employee outcomes such as quality of life and safety can also affect organizational outcomes such as profits and performance. An HWO is an organization that has both financial success and a healthy workforce. For a health care organization to have financial success it must provide high-quality care with efficient use of scarce resources. To have a healthy workforce, the workplace must be safe, provide good ergonomic design, and provide working conditions that help to mitigate the stress of health care work.

Integrating tqm/qi into the hwo paradigm: If properly implemented and institutionalized, TQM/QI can serve as the mechanism by which to transform a health care organization into an HWO. To guide future research, a framework is proposed that links research on QI with research on HWOs in the belief that QI methods and interventions might be an effective means by which to create an HWO. Specific areas of research should focus on identifying the work organization, cultural, technological, and environmental factors that affect care processes; affect patient health, safety, and satisfaction; and indirectly affect patient health, safety, and satisfaction through their effects on staff and care process variables.

Summary: Integrating QI techniques within the paradigm of the HWO paradigm will make it possible to achieve greater improvements in the health of health care organizations and the populations they serve.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Administration / standards*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Patient Care / standards*
  • Safety Management*
  • Systems Integration
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration*
  • United States