Defining What is Good: Pluralism and Healthcare Quality

Polly Mitchell*, Alan Cribb, Vikki Entwistle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


‘Quality’ is a widely invoked concept in healthcare, which broadly captures how good or bad a healthcare service is. While quality has long been thought to be multidimensional, and thus constitutively plural, we suggest that quality is also plural in a further sense, namely that different conceptions of quality are appropriately invoked in different contexts, for different purposes. Conceptual diversity in the definition and specification of quality in healthcare is, we argue, not only inevitable but also valuable. To treat one conception of healthcare quality as universally definitive of good healthcare unjustifiably constrains the ways in which healthcare can be understood to be better or worse. This
indicates that there are limits to the extent to which improvement activities should be coordinated or standardized across the healthcare sector. While there are good reasons to advocate greater coordination in healthcare improvement activities, harmonization efforts should not advance conceptual uniformity about quality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-388
Number of pages22
JournalKennedy Institute Ethics Journal
Issue number4
Early online date31 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust (209811). There is no supporting data relating to this work. We are very grateful to two anonymous reviewers, whose thoughtful and constructive comments pressed us to clarify and develop aspects of our argument.


Dive into the research topics of 'Defining What is Good: Pluralism and Healthcare Quality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this