Quality of care
Every person diagnosed with breast cancer deserves the best care possible. Quality of care is a measure of:
- How well your breast cancer is treated
- How well you are cared for during and after treatment
The Institutes of Medicine define good quality of care as:
“providing patients with appropriate services in a technically competent manner, with good communication, shared decision-making and cultural sensitivity” .
Getting good care means you have the best treatment for your breast cancer and your treatment is given with compassion. This section provides tips to help you get the best quality of care.
Getting good care
Being informed is one of the best ways to help ensure you'll get good medical care. Learning about breast cancer and your specific diagnosis and treatment options can help you ask important, guided questions of your health care providers and share in decision-making.
The next step is to understand what makes up good care. In health care research, many methods are used to measure the quality of care people get from a provider or medical center. Three of the more common methods are discussed below.
Quality of care of hospitals and medical centers
A quality hospital or medical center should have:
- Clean, up-to-date facilities
- Well-stocked examining and operating rooms
- Up-to-date diagnostic equipment
- Health care providers with appropriate professional credentials
Hospitals and medical offices that have these are set up to offer good care. However, having the necessary facilities and supplies does not always ensure quality care. The types of treatment offered and how well people do after care are often more important measures of quality.
Quality of patient care
This measure looks at the quality of care given by health care providers and hospitals. Providers, in addition to giving good basic care, should follow current guidelines for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. (Learn more about these guidelines.)
The Joint Commission conducts site visits and audits of medical centers to check their quality of care. The Joint Commission gives each center a rating based on performance. To find a hospital that meets safety and quality standards, visit The Joint Commission's website or call (630) 792-5800.
How well do people do after their treatment?
Ideally, it would be good to know how well people do when treated by different health care providers and at different hospitals. Information such as rates of complications (like infection) after surgery, survival after breast cancer treatment and quality of life after treatment would be helpful to know. This information, however, is rarely available. It is also difficult to compare these types of data because the people treated at one hospital may be different from those treated at another hospital.
In September 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a set of recommendations (below) on improving cancer care in the U.S. The report Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis recommends improvements to fix shortcomings that add cost and burden to cancer care. In the U.S., there are about 14 million cancer survivors and more than 1.6 million new cases are diagnosed each year. By 2022, the IOM projects that there will be 18 million cancer survivors and, by 2030, cancer incidence is expected to rise to 2.3 million new diagnoses per year. Therefore, the IOM convened a committee of experts to examine the quality of cancer care in the U.S. and made recommendations for improvement. The committee concluded that the cancer care delivery system is in crisis due to a growing demand for cancer care, increasing complexity of treatment, a shrinking workforce and rising costs. Changes across the board are urgently needed to improve the quality of cancer care.
Susan G. Komen® endorses these recommendations as they have special significance in the breast cancer field. “Issues of accessibility, quality treatments and survivorship are especially complex for breast cancer patients, who may be treated for many years,” said Chandini Portteus, Komen’s Chief Mission Officer.
The report identified key ways to improve quality of care:
- Ensure that cancer patients are engaged and understand their diagnosis so they can make informed treatment decisions with their health care providers
- Develop a trained and coordinated workforce of cancer professionals
- Focus on evidence-based care, using information technology to provide better information about the potential benefits of treatments
- Focus on quality measurements
- Provide accessible and affordable care for all
The study was chaired by a Susan G. Komen Scholar Patricia Ganz, M.D., with participation by Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, George Sledge, M.D. Komen was one of 13 organizations sponsoring the study. Read the full report at www.nas.edu and www.iom.edu.