NAHQ’s professional assessment of the healthcare quality workforce is the first major peer-reviewed look into healthcare quality workforce competencies and how they are implemented in workplace environments

CHICAGO (September 1, 2021) — Today, the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), the only organization dedicated to healthcare quality professionals, announces its groundbreaking research describing the critical work of healthcare quality professionals: Why Competency Standardization Matters for Improvement: An Assessment of the Healthcare Quality Workforce. Findings indicate that healthcare quality professionals have a broad scope of work across the multiple domains of the industry-standard Healthcare Quality Competency Framework and suggest a need for further quality workforce development in some areas including population health and quality review and accountability. In addition, the study finds that individuals who are Certified Professionals in Healthcare Quality® (CPHQs) perform work at more advanced levels of the competency spectrum compared to those without CPHQ certification, highlighting a need for organizations to employ dedicated quality and safety experts to meaningfully advance organizational goals and patient outcomes.

This peer-reviewed research published today, September 1, 2021, in the Journal for Healthcare Quality is based on nearly 1,700 responses to NAHQ’s Professional Assessment survey, a standardized tool for healthcare quality professionals to self-assess the work they do across the twice-validated Healthcare Quality Competency Framework, and it is the first-ever database that describes healthcare quality workforce readiness to advance quality and safety goals.

“Today’s healthcare leaders need to understand the broad scope of work encompassed by the healthcare quality professional’s role and recognize the need to reduce variability within the healthcare quality workforce,” said Stephanie Mercado, CEO and Executive Director of NAHQ, who led the development of the Healthcare Quality Competency Framework. “These insights will help leaders achieve this critical goal and improve patient outcomes within organizations overall.”

The study illustrates the range of responsibilities encompassed by quality professionals as well as the range of competencies and skills they must demonstrate to be successful. Results include:

  • Only 28% of respondents indicated that population health and care transitions was within the scope of their current role, while 85% work in performance and process improvement.
  • The lowest competency proficiency rates were reported within the quality review and accountability domain.
  • A higher proportion of CPHQ respondents indicated that their work behaviors align with the proficient or advanced levels of competency compared to non-CPHQ respondents for 28 out of 29 competency statements included in the Framework. This difference was statistically significant for 13 competency statements, including all three competency statements within the performance and process improvement domain.

Other findings include:

  • Two-thirds of respondents are working in 4 or more competency domains, with a higher proportion of CPHQs working in 6-7 domains (34%) compared to Non-CPHQs (22%).
  • A higher proportion of CPHQs are doing work in regulatory and accreditation, quality leadership and integration and health data analytics compared to non-CPHQs.

Healthcare transformation requires a healthcare quality workforce with the requisite expertise to lead, oversee, and implement positive change within healthcare organizations, and these unprecedented results underscore the need for further quality workforce development.

“Previous reports on improving quality have only detailed what needs to change in healthcare, while NAHQ’s research is the first to address how to achieve those goals through workforce development, eliminating a barrier that has prevented better patient outcomes in the past,” said Dr. Rebecca Miltner, Associate Professor and Director of Educationally Focused Partnerships at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and Associate Editor for the Journal for Healthcare Quality.

Driven by the urgent needs to address quality, patient safety, equity, and value, now is the time to advance the profession of healthcare quality, which is best positioned to partner with clinical leaders and executives to advance and facilitate healthcare transformation.

“As a system CEO with an aggressive agenda around quality and patient safety, I need qualified and capable professionals in all roles. When it comes to my quality roles, I can trust CPHQs to fit the bill,” said Dr. Jeff DeLisi, CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

“My message to fellow healthcare executives is this: The tools now exist to galvanize your entire workforce around quality – both those leading the work and the many others supporting it. Our employees entered this field to help improve healthcare. They will embrace what improves outcomes. It’s our job as leaders to ignite that and support it,” said DeLisi.

About NAHQ
The National Association for Healthcare Quality® (NAHQ) is the only organization dedicated to healthcare quality professionals, defining the standard of excellence for the profession, and equipping professionals and organizations across the continuum of healthcare to meet these standards. NAHQ believes that to reduce variability in healthcare delivery, we must first reduce variability in healthcare quality competencies, so we focus our efforts on healthcare quality competencies and workforce development. NAHQ published the first and only Healthcare Quality Competency Framework and validated it twice in the market. We offer the only accredited certification in healthcare quality, the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality® (CPHQ), extensive educational programming, networking opportunities and career resources to help healthcare quality professionals enhance their competencies and their value. Learn more at

Professional Assessment Survey Methodology
This study was evaluated by an Institutional Review Board and determined Not Human Subjects Research and is based on analysis of secondary response data from the NAHQ Professional Assessment survey database. The Professional Assessment was developed during a three-phase process to create and validate the Healthcare Quality Competency Framework. NAHQ engaged survey experts to design the Professional Assessment originally as a method to evaluate the consistency of the competency framework relative to quality practice. The competency framework was first validated based on an extensive literature review and expert opinion, and has been subsequently validated using data from the Professional Assessment in August 2020.

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