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ISO 9001 Blog

John Nolan

Would hospitals benefit from ISO 9001?

ISO 9001 is a universally used quality management standard, adopted by organizations all over the world to standardize and improve the service given to customers. The standard is used across all sectors of business, but is more prevalent in some than others. In my time working in both the electronics and document conversion and storage business, ISO 9001 was a critical customer requirement for different reasons. The electronics industry, which you can read about in this previous blog article: “Tips for ISO 9001 in the electronics industry”, has an unwritten rule that if you wanted to do business overseas, then ISO 9001 accreditation is required to display your commitment to customer quality. In the scanning and data conversion business, contracts with banks and government bodies mean that ISO 9001 is a vital requirement where the end user demands standardization of processes, on-time delivery, and the knowledge that a formal corrective action procedure is present to deal with any outages or process escapes that may occur. So, during a recent discussion with an organization that provided a service to a hospital, it struck me as very odd that this level of quality management is not an industry standard in our hospitals – after all, what is more important to the general healthcare of the population than the way that critical healthcare is managed? This got me thinking: Would hospitals benefit from ISO 9001 accredited quality management systems?

ISO 9001 for hospitals: Why?

Hospital performance statistics and articles about services falling short of expectations are rarely out of the news these days, and it’s normally the negative statistics and stories that catch the attention of the media. While all hospitals are measured by national and regional governments in terms of certain key performance indicators, it seems that internal performance, and therefore quality management can vary massively from hospital to hospital. So, given that hospitals are asked to perform versus the same KPIs, is it not strange that each individual hospital will try and attain these objectives using different internal methods? Let us examine what a standardized ISO 9001 process would bring to hospitals, and the components of the standards that could bring value across a national hospital network:

  • Periodic management reviews: all organizations using the same formats and sharing targets and objectives.
  • Internal audits all hospitals would have to perform these as standard practice.
  • Measurement and control of suppliers: this would allow consistency and assurance that taxpayer money was utilized efficiently.
  • Customer feedback: the ISO 9001 requirement to solicit customer feedback would help to ensure that preventive measures would be more prominent than corrective actions.
  • Corrective action: a standardized and formal corrective action process that could be shared across different sites could be a huge advantage to hospital managers.
  • Risk assessment: again, this is obviously performed within most work environments, but a standardized and regular format that is recognized across multiple sites could bring improved synergy and reduced costs to the service provided.
  • Continual improvement: as the recurring theme of the 9001 standard, the above processes, when undertaken correctly, can drive real improvement within a hospital environment similarly to any business.

So, these processes, along with the other core principles and clauses of ISO 9001, could help to bring uniformity and continuity to a network of hospitals. But, what would be the benefit of such an undertaking?

ISO 9001 for hospitals: The benefits of implementation

We have examined why it can be envisioned that ISO 9001 standardization would help hospitals, but exactly what benefits could be expected?

  • Uniformity of objectives and methodologies: would allow all hospitals to use the same processes to pursue goals.
  • Costs: shared processes and methods allow staff to transfer and work at other sites seamlessly with a minimum of training.
  • Staff costs: it could be strongly argued that if a standardized quality management process existed within hospitals, that considerable administrative and expensive management costs could be eliminated, given that standard processes, training, objectives, and goals would exist.
  • Morale: shared and well-communicated objectives with a defined corrective action process, supported by sturdy customer feedback, risk management, internal audit, and corrective action procedures, ensure that staff have a defined goal and improves morale.
  • Information sharing: standardized processes across multiple hospitals would allow data and knowledge to be shared, ensuring greater efficiency and lower costs in pursuit of objectives.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: the absolute goal of any ISO implementation process. Measuring, review, and action versus the respective clauses of the standard should ensure the continual improvement cycle and provide better service and effective lessons learned for the benefit of the end user, the patient.

So, it can be seen that although most hospitals surely use processes like internal audit and risk management, there could be real benefits from the standardization of processes across multiple sites within the ISO 9001 accreditation process. Improving customer satisfaction is the best reason to implement ISO 9001, which you can read more about in this previous article: “Handling customer satisfaction with code of conduct and complaints procedure”, and if you can improve service in a key area where better processes and continual improvement can mean saving lives, the benefits are even greater. The project size and costs may be great, but as with most organizations that have pursued ISO 9001, it will soon be apparent that the benefits and savings would be greater.

Why not use our free Gap analysis tool to assess where your organization is currently versus the ISO 9001 standard?

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2 responses to “Would hospitals benefit from ISO 9001?”

  1. Monise Carla says:

    I would like to see some analogy to ISO 9001 with ONA, as the ONA is the specific certification for health … how complement each other?

  2. jwn_bs says:

    Hi Monise, I think considering at least some aspects of ISO 9001 along with existing healthcare standards would be beneficial. ISO 9001 strongly supports and improves the user/customer experience as well as just striving for “compliance”, and what can be more important than the service given to the customer or end user? Perhaps some existing certifications focus too much on compliance and not enough on results for “customer”? I believe aspects of 9001 (customer feedback, etc) would improve that.

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