Renew Your Membership

Striving For Excellence: Mercado Emphasizes Utility of Quality For More Than Compliance


Stephanie Mercado, named one of Modern Healthcare’s “Top 25 Women in Healthcare” for 2023 and the CEO of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), will present the Ralph G. Brindis Keynote at ACC Quality Summit 2023.

Her beginnings in the field involved a “crash course” in quality paired with “on the job” training while building a new registry for orthopedics. With more than 20 years in the health care industry, Mercado has extensive experience bringing together stakeholders for the benefit and success of quality projects. Under Mercado’s leadership since 2013, NAHQ has expanded its footprint to support health care organizations in developing capabilities and building capacity for quality, leading to a more engaged and effective workforce.

What knowledge do you hope attendees will gain from your address?

The perception of quality needs to change from compliance to excellence. For decades, quality has been built on the fly at the local level where the ‘fixers’ just figure it out. That worked well enough as we were focused on compliance and sought to advance improvement in clinical outcomes. But today and tomorrow’s health care challenges – workforce shortages, safety concerns and an unsustainable cost model – require us to aspire past today’s view of quality to achieve excellence.

What are some of the most significant advancements in health care quality to date?

Moving from compliance to improvement were early “wins” in the quality and safety movement. Today, advances in thinking are helping us take the movement to the next level as we contemplate the core elements of safe, high-quality care including population health, care transitions, advanced health data analytics, value-based payment models and more. Advancing in these areas will mean that the safest care is the most affordable and accessible health care, which will come when we move away from isolating the functions of quality to seeing them in a broader context.

How can health care professionals and institutions continue to improve quality and safety despite workforce challenges?

The name of the game in health care is to do more with less – this is undeniably a difficult task. Most skills, competencies and roles have been built just in time to meet regulatory requirements or advance individual improvement projects. It’s time to take a step back and evaluate if these systems are set up for future success. The most important thing to do is rethink, deconstruct and reconstruct quality and safety infrastructure to build capabilities of individual contributors and the capacity of teams to do their best work.

Can you speak to the value of registries and accreditation services in advancing quality initiatives?

Understanding best practices and measuring clinical effectiveness is of critical importance in health care. Registries help track our collective progress and push the industry to “level up” clinical care to the benefit of the patient. These are important components of a well-informed quality strategy.

What excites you the most about the future of health care quality improvement?

It’s clear that the status quo is not going to work – health care costs are unsustainable, safety issues are significant, and access and equity are top-of-mind. This is clearing the path for more innovative thinking and bold activation strategies. I’m excited that energy around quality and safety is growing and that health care leaders are realizing that the focus is not about compliance, but the potential of achieving excellence.

For more coverage of the conference, check out the meeting’s digital newspaper, use the hashtag #ACCQuality23 and follow the ACC on social media.

Clinical Topics: Cardiovascular Care Team

Keywords: Registries, Workforce, Accreditation, Capacity Building, Leadership, Leadership, ACC Accreditation, National Cardiovascular Data Registries, Quality Summit, Quality Improvement

< Back to Listings