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Is the CQO Position Needed?

News  |  By Sandra Gittlen  
   September 07, 2016

"In a healthcare system's most mature state, everyone owns quality," says Baylor Scott & White Health's chief quality officer. So if everyone owns quality, why have a CQO?

This article first appeared in the May 2016 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

When David Ballard, MD, PhD, MSPH, FACP, assumed the role of Baylor Health Care System's first chief quality officer in 1999, he says he was the second healthcare executive in the country to hold the title. Today, Ballard calls the CQO title a "must-have" for all health systems to show their commitment to quality care.

"The explicit business case for a CQO is more obvious in 2016 than it was in 1998," says Ballard, who retains the CQO title with the Texas-based organization now known as Baylor Scott & White Health, which now has 41 hospitals, more than 950 patient sites, and more than 6,600 affiliated physicians. "A key pathway to reducing per capita costs of healthcare will be to achieve continuous improvements in the health of populations while delivering effective care and reducing ineffective care, healthcare waste, and harm to patients." And he says CQO is the role necessary to lead this charge.

Ballard travels the country to teach other health systems how to structure their CQO positions, acknowledging that the approach differs based on an organization's size and priorities. "In a healthcare system's most mature state, everyone owns quality," he says.

So if everyone owns quality, why have a CQO? "Because the future of health systems rests on the ability to continually improve on the care they provide patients, and they must have someone in a leadership role to make that happen," Ballard says.

At Baylor Scott & White Health, he also serves as president and founder of the organization's STEEEP Global Institute and practices the Institute of Medicine's STEEEP concept, which he wrote about in several books, including Achieving STEEEP Health Care. STEEEP refers to safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-centered care. Part of Ballard's job is to ensure that all of the organization's 40,000 employees are well versed in STEEEP and consistently apply its principles.

Quality is now one of the four pillars for compensation at Baylor Scott & White Health, requiring employees to have goals and accountability in this critical area, he says.


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