Online Master’s in Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality Programs

For those who have worked in healthcare or are considering advancing into management, the skills and knowledge gained from a patient safety and healthcare quality program can be beneficial.

“Given the recent ‘only pay for quality performance’ outcome measures, the demand for safety science and quality training will continue to grow for the next decade,” according to Dr. Anne Gunderson, the associate dean for clinical education innovation at Georgetown University Medical Center (profiled below). She refers to recent shifts by health policymakers away from the traditional United States fee-for-service model. That model doesn’t hold healthcare providers accountable for quality or efficiency but pays them based on the quantity and complexity of their services. In other words, a financial incentive to deliver as many services as possible, irrespective of costs or health outcomes, influences providers.

Concerned over massive healthcare expenditures and relatively low care quality relative to other nations, policymakers have started shifting towards alternative payment models that encourage higher quality at lower costs. For example, the Affordable Care Act expands pay-for-performance programs in Medicare and encourages experimentation to evaluate effectiveness. Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2015 started driving aggressively toward what many now call “value-based” or “quality-based” reimbursement. Rather than continuing to reward volume over care quality, CMS announced that by the end of 2018, 50 percent of fee-for-service Medicare payments would become value-based. In addition, the Healthcare Transformation Task Force, a recently formed alliance of provider groups and insurers, including Blue Cross and Aetna, committed to shifting 75 percent of their contracts into value-based payment arrangements.

This sudden pressure to improve care quality is creating rapid growth in this new field, driving a particular demand for leaders with advanced knowledge and expertise in patient quality and safety systems. George Washington University cites job board listings from the National Association for Healthcare Quality. It includes titles such as:

  • Clinical director, quality services
  • Clinical nurse auditor
  • Compliance auditor analyst
  • Director of quality management
  • Healthcare manager
  • Healthcare quality analyst
  • Quality and safety specialist
  • Quality assurance consultant
  • Quality improvement nurse

Innovative healthcare quality and safety programs offering predominantly online curricula like those in the following profiles can offer students significant flexibility. That’s because recent instructional technology advances now provide an online educational experience equivalent to instruction on campus, yet unconstrained by distance or time. As a result, these online quality and safety programs offer opportunities to students who cannot leave jobs to attend classes on campus or who wish to attend better out-of-state universities without the expense and hassle of relocation. Plus, personalized online education provides an attractive alternative for students who want to learn at their own pace; motivated and gifted students, in particular, can thrive at the accelerated pace made possible by these online programs.

Online programs also save students money. Even when tuition rates are identical, online programs can present more cost-effective alternatives to on-campus programs because of savings on costs like relocation, childcare, and transportation.

The following guide presents profiles of nine master’s in patient safety and healthcare quality degree programs offered online, seven provided entirely online, with two programs requiring brief campus visits. They include seven specialized healthcare quality and safety master’s degree programs and two closely related programs: one in nursing and an MBA program.

Professors to Know from Schools with Online Master’s in Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality Programs

  • Aarti Raghavan, MD, MS, FAAP

    Dr. Aarti Raghavan is the Academic Program Director and Director of Quality Improvement & Patient Safety at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Patient Safety Leadership Program. Dr. Raghavan is board certified in General Pediatrics and Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, with a master's in Patient Safety Leadership. Dr. Raghavan is an active Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative member, sharing her research and clinical insights across multiple platforms. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally, as she provides unique insight into human factors and how they affect patient safety. Dr. Raghavan serves on the editorial boards of national journals while also publishing many works of her own. After completing her medical education at Sri Ramachandra University (Chennai, India), she bolstered her training by engaging in Pediatric Residency at UIC and Neonatology fellowship training at UIC with the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Raghavan holds an M.S. in Patient Safety Leadership from the University of Illinois Chicago and has extensive backgrounds in teaching, mentorship, and patient safety projects.

  • Carole Hemmelgarn, MS - Georgetown University

    With 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry, Professor Hemmelgarn is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, teaching error science, risk, and disclosure to graduate students. Previously, she served on the Georgetown University School of Medicine faculty. Notably, she is involved in patient safety work across the nation and around the world. She serves on the Patient and Family Engagement Committee for Solutions for Patient Safety, and the Quality and Safety Patient and Family Advisory Council at MedStar Health in Columbia, MD. Additionally, she serves on the Patient Safety and Reliability Committee and Improving Pediatric Sepsis Outcomes Collaborative for Children’s Hospital Colorado; the Clinical Excellence Council for the Colorado Hospital Association; and the Board of Directors for the Collaborative for Accountability and Improvement. She is interested in communication and resolution programs, healthcare communication, and storytelling in healthcare. She earned a master’s degree in healthcare ethics from Creighton University before earning a master of science in patient safety leadership from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago.

  • Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD - Formerly Johns Hopkins University

    Time Magazine named Dr. Pronovost one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008. Dr. Pronovost, a world-renowned patient safety champion and practicing critical care physician, earned Time’s accolade for his scientific work leveraging checklists to reduce catheter-related bloodstream infections. As he explains in this inspiring video, that discovery has saved thousands of lives worldwide. Many other high-profile awards soon followed, including a 2008 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” Elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2011, Dr. Pronovost is an advisor to the World Health Organization’s World Alliance for Patient Safety and regularly addresses the United States Congress on patient safety issues. In addition, he served as the university’s senior vice president of patient safety and quality and director of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. He earned his undergraduate degree from Fairfield University, his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Notably, he recently departed JHU to join UnitedHealthcare as the senior vice president for clinical strategy, which he tweeted was a “great opportunity to improve care for millions.”

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani and AT&T.

Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. He graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.

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