Skip to Content

A Glossary: Health Care Quality Terms

ADE: Adverse Drug Effect

An injury due to the use of a drug — either a bad reaction or overdose, or harm caused by reducing or discontinuing drug therapy.

AHRQ: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Part of the Department of Health & Human Services, AHRQ supports research aimed at improving the quality, safety, and effectiveness of health care. Its research helps people make more informed decisions and improves the quality of health care services.

ALOS: Average Length of Stay

The average number of days in a hospital for each patient who is admitted.

ALS: Advanced Life Support

A higher level of pre-hospital emergency medical care provided by paramedics to sustain life, including invasive techniques such as IV therapy, intubation, defibrillation, and drugs and medications.

AMI: Acute Myocardial Infarction

A heart attack. It happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked for a long enough time that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies.

CAUTI: Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection that occurs in a patient who had a urinary catheter in place within 48-hours of onset of symptoms.

CHF: Congestive Heart Failure

A condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to deliver needed oxygen-rich blood to the body.

CLABSI: Central-Line Associated Bloodstream Infection

A laboratory-confirmed bloodstream infection in a patient who had a central line within 48-hours prior to the start of symptoms, and that the infection is not related to an infection from another site.

C.diff: Clostridium Difficile

A bacteria that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

CMI: Case Mix Index

A standard measure that is used to compare patients' severity of illness between hospitals. Hospitals with a high CMI treat a greater number of severely ill patients, which can impact overall clinical outcomes.

DOH: Department of Health

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is a state agency dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing injury and disease, and assuring the safe delivery of quality health care for all Commonwealth citizens.

DVT: Deep Vein Thrombosis

A blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside a part of the body, usually in the large veins of the lower leg and thigh.

EHR: Electronic Health Record

An electronic, or digital, version of a patient’s medical and treatment history used by health care providers to make decisions about a patient’s care. It includes progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, lab and test results, and radiology reports. Patient records can be shared instantly and securely to authorized users.

EMTALA: Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act

This federal law requires hospitals to provide care for anyone coming to an emergency department for treatment, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

FY: Fiscal Year

A 12-month period, other than a calendar year, for which an organization maintains its budget and financial records.

HAC: Healthcare-Acquired Condition

A medical problem that a patient develops during a stay in a hospital or health care facility that was not present on admission. The term is used in federal and state regulations.

HAI: Healthcare-Acquired Infection

Any infection treated in the hospital or health care facility that was not present on admission. The term is used in federal and state regulations.

HCAHPS: Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems

The first national, standardized, and publicly reported survey of patients' perspectives of their hospital experience. HCAHPS data are available on the Hospital Compare website, which is maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

IDS: Integrated Delivery System

A network of health care facilities and providers that work together to provide a full range of health care services, including physician services, hospital services, and related services.

IHI: Institute for Healthcare Improvement

A not-for-profit organization focused on improving health and health care throughout the world.

JCI: Joint Commission International

The international division of Joint Commission Resources (JCR), JCI is the leading health care accrediting body outside of the U.S. It has worked with health care organizations, ministries of health, and global organizations in more than 80 countries.

JCR: Joint Commission Resources

An affiliate of The Joint Commission, JCR offers health care providers consulting services, educational services, software, and publications to help improve the quality of care and patient safety in accordance with Joint Commission standards.

JCAHO: Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations

The Joint Commission (formerly known as the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Health Organizations) is an independent, not-for-profit group that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting performance standards.

OP: Outpatient

A patient who is able to return home after treatment without an overnight stay in a hospital or other inpatient facility.

P4P: Pay for Performance

A financial incentive program that pays health care providers based on performance in quality and efficiency measures.

PDSA: Plan-Do-Study-Act

A quality improvement methodology based on breaking down change into small segments by testing change on a micro level and analyzing the results to validate improvement

PE: Pulmonary Embolism

A sudden blockage in a lung artery usually caused by a blood clot that travels to the lung from a vein in the leg.

PN: Pneumonia

An infection in one or both of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

RCA: Root Cause Analysis

A method of problem solving that looks deeper into the root causes of faults or problems to find out why they happen.

SCIP: Surgical Care Improvement Project

A national quality partnership of organizations focused on improving surgical care by significantly reducing surgical complications.

SSI: Surgical Site Infection

An infection that develops after surgery in the part of the body where the surgery took place.

VAP: Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

A lung infection that develops in a patient who is on a ventilator.

VBP: Value-Based Purchasing

Also referred to as pay-for-performance (P4P), this change to the current Medicare payment system links provider reimbursement rates to reporting and performance on select quality of care measures.

VTE: Venous Thromboembolism

A condition that includes both deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). It occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in the deep veins (normally the lower extremities), then breaks off and travels to the lungs.