BMJ Qual Saf doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2015-004160
  • Editorial

The Quadruple Aim: care, health, cost and meaning in work

  1. Lucian Leape3
  1. 1Advocate Health Care, Downers Grove, Illinois, USA
  2. 2Hospital Quality Institute, Sacramento, California, USA
  3. 3Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rishi Sikka, Advocate Health Care, 3075 Highland Avenue, Suite 600, Downers Grove, Il 60515, USA; rishi.sikka{at}
  • Received 5 March 2015
  • Revised 6 May 2015
  • Accepted 16 May 2015
  • Published Online First 2 June 2015

In 2008, Donald Berwick and colleagues provided a framework for the delivery of high value care in the USA, the Triple Aim, that is centred around three overarching goals: improving the individual experience of care; improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.1 The intent is that the Triple Aim will guide the redesign of healthcare systems and the transition to population health. Health systems globally grapple with these challenges of improving the health of populations while simultaneously lowering healthcare costs. As a result, the Triple Aim, although originally conceived within the USA, has been adopted as a set of principles for health system reform within many organisations around the world.

The successful achievement of the Triple Aim requires highly effective healthcare organisations. The backbone of any effective healthcare system is an engaged and productive workforce.2 But the Triple Aim does not explicitly acknowledge the critical role of the workforce in healthcare transformation. We propose a modification of the Triple Aim to acknowledge the importance of physicians, nurses and all employees finding joy and meaning in their work. This ‘Quadruple Aim’ would add a fourth aim: improving the experience of providing care.

The core of workforce engagement is the experience of joy and meaning in the work of healthcare. This is not synonymous with happiness, rather that all members of the workforce have a sense of accomplishment and meaning in their contributions. By meaning, we refer to the sense of importance of daily work. By joy, we refer to the feeling of success and fulfilment that results from meaningful work. In the UK, the National Health Service has captured this with the notion of an engaged staff that ‘think and act in a positive way about the work they do, the people they …

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