Care, Cost, and Cliff. Stephanie Mercado on the state of quality in healthcare. || EP. 151

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Laurie McGraw is speaking with Inspiring Woman Stephanie Mercado of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ).

Stephanie was recently named as a Top Most Influential person in healthcare which is representative of her work and the work of NAHQ.  NAHQ, aims to provide solutions for the most pressing issues in healthcare which today vast.


“…..but I think could be summarized in three words.  Care, cost and cliff. We want to stay ahead of where health care delivery is going. We want to make sure that from a cost perspective that we are helping to make health care sustainable.  And that we are readying ourselves for the workforce cliff.  Because we know workforce shortages are going to get much worse over the next 15 years and we really see quality and safety, equity and value as huge drivers and business strategies to advancing all of that.”


In talking about quality, Stephanie provides historical context as to how that has evolved over the years since Medicare was signed into law in the ‘60s to today where there are not shared definitions or common language across all of the people whose job in one way or another does bear responsibility for quality and safety.  NAHQ defines the profession of quality and safety with detailed competencies for the entire workforce.


“We tell people what to do in healthcare all the time. Make it safer, make it more affordable.  But we are not really good at telling people, the workforce, the leaders, how to achieve it. And that is really where we need to focus. It’s as much on the how as it is on the what.”


As to advice for other emerging leaders….. Being prepared, doing your homework, and walking the talk matters.  As a leader, Stephanie also consumes a lot of information, yet she is very pressed for time (work, travel, speaking engagements, two boys in travel hockey. The list goes on!).  Her new favorite time hack is listening to summarized books while on the treadmill or out walking the dog.


And she needs that time.  Owning the issue of the profession of healthcare quality, the discipline of healthcare quality and the competency standards for that profession are big and important jobs for NAHQ.  Yet, with tremendous potential to impact, as Stephanie would say, cost, care and cliff.


Guest Bio:

Stephanie Mercado is the chief executive officer/executive director of the National Association for Healthcare Quality® (NAHQ), the leader in the development of industry-standard healthcare quality and safety competencies, training and certification in healthcare quality. The Chicago-based association serves healthcare professionals across the country and internationally.

Mercado brings more than 20 years of healthcare industry experience to her lead role at NAHQ. Since joining NAHQ in 2013, she has implemented innovations and introduced methodologies to research and define standardized competencies for the healthcare quality profession. This has resulted in advancement of quality professionals and increased visibility and credibility of the quality workforce within healthcare.

Under Mercado’s visionary leadership, the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality® (CPHQ) certification has doubled from approximately 7,000 CPHQs to more than 14,000. Over the same time period, NAHQ membership has grown from about 4,500 members to nearly 9,000.

In partnership with NAHQ’s board of directors, staff and volunteers, Mercado led the development of industry-elevating initiatives, such as the twice-validated Healthcare Quality Competency Framework, and the profession’s first workforce study, offering critical insights to workforce development opportunities for healthcare quality and safety professionals. She also orchestrated the development of the first and only database that articulates the work of those working in healthcare quality. A builder by nature, Mercado, with the partnership of NAHQ leaders, then conceptualized and deployed Workforce Accelerator®, a scalable organizational solution to assess, organize and leverage the quality workforce.

She is committed to educating leaders on the impact that a coordinated, competent workforce can make in advancing healthcare. To that end, Mercado is a highly sought-after speaker and author on workforce development and system sustainability and speaks nationally about strategies to drive quality in healthcare and improve healthcare outcomes. She is an innovative thought-leader and influencer who contributes insights on the critical need to reduce variability in healthcare quality competencies and the training needs that are vital with the decreasing shelf-life of skills in the rapidly evolving healthcare environment. Mercado currently participates on:

  • The Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s National Steering Committee for Patient Safety
  • The Association Forum Healthcare Collaborative steering committee
  • The Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Management Education as a board member
  • The Patient Safety Movement Foundation as an advisory member
  • Patients for Patient Safety US (United States) as an organizational partner working to achieve the World Health Organization Global Patient Safety Action Plan’s strategic objective of health worker education, skills, and safety

Prior to joining NAHQ, Mercado served in an executive position with the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and supported the American Orthopaedic Association. Throughout her career, she has been focused on advancing workforce and professional competencies and skills in practical and actionable application for various professions.

Mercado holds the CPHQ credential and is a Certified Association Executive (CAE). In 2018, she was recognized by .orgCommunity with the Outstanding Nonprofit Leader Award. In 2022, she was included on the prestigious national list of nominees for Modern Healthcare magazine’s “300 Most Influential People in Healthcare” ranking. In 2023, Modern Healthcare recognized Mercado as one of the Top 25 Women Leaders.

Mercado is also a proud “hockey mom” to her two sons, Sam and Ben. She and her husband, Bryan, enjoy spending weekends at their many hockey tournaments.

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