Donabedian (1966) noted that the quality of healthcare is a â€śremarkably difficult notion to define.â€ť Based on a definition offered by Lee and Jones (1933); he concludes that the criteria of quality of care are mere value judgements that are applied to aspects of a process called healthcare. Deming (1986) cites and shares W. A. Shewhartâ€™s view that the difficulty in defining quality emanates from the need to translate future requirements of the user into measurable characteristics so that the product or service can be designed and turned out to satisfy the user. Regarding the quality of healthcare; Deming states that a definition is a â€śperennial problemâ€ť. He adds that healthcare quality has been defined in many ways and that each way seems to serve a special type of problem. In spite of this difficulty in defining the concept; there has always been the need to measure and improve quality.
Moreover; it is evident that better quality has been achieved at different levels in different industries or organisations. For example; Young et al (2004); Merry (2004); Laffel et al (1989); and Mohammed (2004) provide evidence that healthcare practitioners can adopt some of the quality improvement techniques in practice in other industrial systems mainly in the manufacturing sector. Currently there are several cases of attempts being made to apply some industrial systems improvement techniques in healthcare (Komashie and Mousavi; 2005; Moore; 2003; Dodds; 2005).
This paper attempts to extract information from a comparative analysis of quality improvement methods in industry and healthcare and to suggest some directions for further study. It is primarily concerned with the general concepts of quality assessment within these industries at various points in time and how these concepts have changed. It must also be noted that there are volumes of publications on quality both in healthcare and industry but this paper is not an exhaustive review of relevant literature. It is however believed that the sources selected for this study are representative of the major trends in quality particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Keywords: Quality improvement; quality methods; industry; healthcare