Quality Standards are concise statements designed to help clinicians easily and quickly know what care they should be providing, based on the latest and best evidence. They also are designed to help patients and families know what to expect in their care.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care uses Clinical Handbooks to provide guidance about how care should be provided for treatments that are funded through the Quality-Based Procedures funding mechanism. Clinical Handbooks are detailed guidance materials to help hospitals understand which patients are included in the funding model based on the care that is provided and how care should be provided to those patients.
Clinical practice guidelines are in-depth documents that include dozens or even hundreds of recommendations, some of which are based on low-quality evidence and are in areas where experts disagree. As a result, the evidence to support many of the recommendations is “weak,” and simply advises clinicians to consider providing a treatment. In contrast, Quality Standards focus on areas where there is strong consensus, typically based on high-quality evidence. In addition, the recommendations in Quality Standards are designed to be measurable, which is not always the case with clinical practice guidelines.
Accreditation standards are guidance materials that help organizations develop their services and assess what they do. Organizations are accredited if they fulfill these identified system-wide standards that address many functions across an organization – including governance, leadership, infection prevention, medication management, etc. Accreditation standards generally do not provide guidance on evidence-based processes of care for individual patients as Quality Standards do.
Professional standards of care are standards set by the professional provincial health regulatory colleges and set out minimum expectations of practice for a specific profession. Quality Standards are designed to “raise the ceiling,” whereas professional standards are typically mandatory practices intended to maintain a minimum standard.
All of these guidance materials inform the development of Health Quality Ontario’s Quality Standards, which are concise sets of easy-to-understand statements that are based on the latest and best evidence.