Executive Spotlight—NAHQ's Stephanie Mercado aims to standardize quality

Stephanie Mercado, CEO of the National Association of Healthcare Quality, detailed how the group is getting healthcare organizations to rethink quality. (NAHQ)

Stephanie Mercado understands that the push for value-based care is also making hospitals rethink how they approach quality.

That is why, as leader of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), she is helping to get hospitals to standardize their quality departments.

“If you look across the country, each healthcare delivery system will handle healthcare quality differently,” she told FierceHealthcare. “The roles and responsibilities are organized differently. All have unique job descriptions and position profiles.”

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So, in late 2018, NAHQ rolled out its Healthcare Quality Competency Framework that outlines the knowledge and skills necessary to create a successful quality program. The framework offers eight dimensions such as patient safety, data analytics and quality leadership that are critical to fulfilling healthcare quality needs.

Mercado joined NAHQ in 2013 after a 20-year career in healthcare that included stints at the American Orthopaedic Association and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

More About Stephanie Mercado

Age: 43

Family: Husband Bryan and sons Sam, 10, and Ben, 6

Biggest pet peeve: Lost opportunity

Favorite thing to do on your day off: Biking or walking with my family on Lakeshore Drive/Lake Michigan

Book you recommend: "The Infinite Game" by Simon Sinek

The advice you would give your younger self: A younger version of any self sees the world a little more simply. With experience and maturity, you can appreciate the complexities involved in working in healthcare and running a business.

A few words to describe your management style: Highly engaged and accessible

FierceHealthcare recently caught up with Mercado to discuss the state of quality in healthcare and how it is shifting.

FierceHealthcare: How has the Healthcare Quality Competency Framework impacted the healthcare system?

Stephanie Mercado: What that really did was begin the national dialogue. We sent 29 competency statements into the market to start the conversation and to see what kind of feedback we got.

What the market is telling us is that we have identified and articulated a challenge with regard to workforce readiness on value.

We have developed the beginnings of a solution to the challenges these organizations face.

FH: How has the shift to value-based care affected how healthcare organizations approach quality?

SM: It has put quality front and center in the conversation.

To deliver on value-based care and do that well requires a really disciplined approach to how you approach healthcare delivery.

We are seeing organizations that moved fully into the risk model. They are moving 100% away from fee-for-service and into risk.

What they are doing is they are using NAHQ’s competency training so their staff is better equipped to deliver on value. This includes helping staff really understand how to leverage information and data to drive decision-making and improvement in their organization.

It also involves how to understand population health and the waste and safety issues that occurred with care transitions.

FH: What do you see healthcare quality looking like in the next five to 10 years?

SM: We are seeing the innovators on healthcare transitioning from old to new paradigms.

Over the next five years, you will see more and more healthcare organizations try to figure this out. These are looking at a total transformation agenda. Healthcare organizations will recognize they are not going to improve healthcare quality and safety by putting out one initiative at a time. They must have a global view of their organization.

One example would be, quality used to be viewed as compliance and now quality is being viewed as a business strategy. The quality people were in an office and do the quality work in a silo. When you are using quality as a business strategy it is infused throughout the entire organization.

FH: Why did you decide to join NAHQ?

SM: I have been working in healthcare for the past 20 years. I previously worked for the American Orthopaedic Association. I was involved in helping to develop resources to advance the professions through continued professional development and lifelong learning.

So with that experience in mind and having about 15 years of experience in working within the front of house of healthcare, I decided to make the shift to work for NAHQ. I was looking to understand and impact how the back of the house of healthcare was organized and leveraged and how it makes the contribution to quality.

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