[Quality of health care, accreditation, and health technology assessment in Croatia: role of agency for quality and accreditation in health].Acta Med Croatica. 2010 Dec; 64(5):425-34.AM
Avedis Donabedian defined the quality of care as the kind of care, which is expected to maximize an inclusive measure of patient welfare, after taking into account the balance of expected gains and losses associated with the process of care in all its segments. According to the World Medical Assembly, physicians and health care institutions have an ethical and professional obligation to strive for continuous quality improvement of services and patient safety with the ultimate goal to improve both individual patient outcomes as well as population health. Health technology assessment (HTA) is a multidisciplinary process that summarizes information about the medical, social, economic and ethical issues related to the use of a health technology in a systematic, transparent, unbiased, robust manner, with the aim to formulate safe and effective health policies that are patient focused and seek to achieve the highest value. The Agency for Quality and Accreditation in Health was established in 2007 as a legal, public, independent, nonprofit institution under the Act on Quality of Health Care. The Agency has three departments: Department of Quality and Education, Department of Accreditation, and Department of Development, Research, and Health Technology Assessment. According to the Act, the Agency should provide the procedure of granting, renewal and cancellation of accreditation of healthcare providers; proposing to the Minister, in cooperation with professional associations, the plan and program for healthcare quality assurance, improvement, promotion and monitoring; proposing the healthcare quality standards as well as the accreditation standards to the Minister; keeping a register of accreditations and providing a database related to accreditation, healthcare quality improvement, and education; providing education in the field of healthcare quality assurance, improvement and promotion; providing the HTA procedure and HTA database, supervising the healthcare insurance standards, and providing other services in the field of healthcare quality assurance, improvement, promotion and monitoring, according to the Act. Formal activities of the Agency in the field of HTA actually began in summer 2009. In the field of quality and accreditation, the plan and program of healthcare quality assurance, improvement, promotion and monitoring was finished and published in October 2010; preparation of the healthcare quality standards as well as the accreditation standards is still in process, with the aim to start accreditation process at 10 hospitals in 2011. Education in the field of healthcare quality assurance, improvement and promotion has been established as a continuous process from the beginning. The Agency is member of the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua) and participates in the work of the European Accreditation Network (EAN). In the field of HTA, the Agency has established international collaboration and support, which resulted in its appointment and participation in the European network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA) Joint Action Project as a EUnetHTA Partner, as well as its membership in the international society, HTAi. TAIEX project has been approved as a two-day workshop in December 2010. The Croatian HTA Guidelines have been issued with the aim to start the HTA process and reports that should serve as recommendations, as a support to policy-makers at the national level, in particular the Croatian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and Croatian Institute of Health Insurance, in making evidence-informed decisions on the strategic planning, investment, management and implementation of technologies in health care, on funding (reimbursement) and coverage of health technologies, and at hospital level on the request from hospital directors and policy teams. In conclusion, establishment of all these measures in Croatia is by no means an easy and quick process, however, we do believe that it is feasible through continuous and close collaboration of all those involved.