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Evidence to Improve Care

Frequently Asked Questions about Quality Standards

We identify topics for Quality Standards through public open calls, consultation with experts, and emerging issues identified through Health Quality Ontario’s health system performance work.

We also emphasize areas where there is the potential to make significant improvements in the quality of care in Ontario.

Advisory committees are created on each topic consisting of professionals (with in-depth knowledge and experience in the topic area) and of patients (with lived experience).

Then a comprehensive review of the evidence and performance measures takes place on the topic area.

A concise and easy-to-read Quality Standard is then crafted with the five to 15 measurable actions to take for patients with these conditions.

The draft standard is then posted for public comment and then finalized once that feedback is reviewed.

Quality Standards are distinct because they are:

  • Concise: they are five to 15 statements versus sometimes hundreds like those that appear in many clinical practice guidelines
  • Accessible: they are developed for practicing clinicians and provider organizations to easily know what care they should be providing, and , for patients so they can understand what care they should be receiving
  • Measurable: each statement is accompanied by one or more quality measure

They are designed to improve care in Ontario and target priority areas for improvement.

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.

We develop each Quality Standard with a view toward supporting its uptake across the Ontario health system. We broadly disseminate each Quality Standard among health professionals, patients, caregivers and the public. Plus, we fully leverage other Health Quality Ontario programs such as quality improvement plans, our online knowledge forums, the Adopting Research to Improve Care (ARTIC) program that we operate in partnership with the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario, and our suite of health system performance reporting vehicles.

We also work with our partners to support uptake of Quality Standards.

For more information about Quality Standards, please e-mail us at

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