April 29, 2020 update:
The information contained in the post below, originally published on June 26, 2010, is out of date.
In 2010, I highlighted two books:
- Janet Brown’s The Healthcare Quality Handbook, 20th edition
- The National Association for Healthcare Quality’s Q Solutions: Essential Resources for the Healthcare Quality Professional, 2nd edition
At the time of writing this update (April 29, 2020), The Healthcare Quality Handbook is in its 30th edition. This book is significantly different to the one I reviewed in 2010 in terms of content and no longer comes in a D-ring binder. I cannot make a strong recommendation to buy the current edition. Concurrently, I do not make a recommendation not to buy the book, i.e. I do not discourage anyone from purchasing it.
If you have concerns that the current edition is outdated because it has not changed since 2018, I’d say that they are unjustified because the CPHQ exam content outline was last revised in January 2018. Therefore, any material (including the content on this website) that addresses the 2018 exam content outline should be considered the most up-to-date!
By the way, there is no such thing as a “2020 version” of the CPHQ exam content outline – I saw this by accident on a Google search last week – I was shocked that some parties would be so deceptive as to make the product they’re selling seem more current, which I presume they think will come across as being somewhat better. The content needs to help folks pass the CPHQ exam and, therefore, address important aspects of the exam content (in this case the 2018 content). This should not be confused with other things where having the latest version is advisable, like having the latest available versions of iOS or Android on your smart phone. When it comes to the type of content we’re interested in (CPHQ prep content), as with many other things, the latest does not necessarily mean the best.
Q Solutions has been superseded by HQ Solutions: Resource for the Healthcare Quality Professional, 4th Edition. Like Janet’s book, I have a neutral opinion toward HQ Solutions.
I believe either book will be sufficient to be used as a reference. I think in 2020, if a CPHQ candidate wanted or needed a book to help them prepare for the exam, either book will do the job. Purchasing both books might be overkill.
If you have any questions about what book you might need, feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
OK, so you’ve decided that you’ll pursue the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) Examination.
Now you might be looking for books to support your preparation for the exam.
In deciding which book(s) to purchase, I have the following criteria (you might have different or additional ones):
- The content is closely related to the current exam content outline, preferably organized in a way similar to the structure of the exam and is sufficiently comprehensive.
- The book provides information that I don’t already know or present it in a way that is different and interesting. Alternatively, it can provide fresh insights into a topic I’m familiar with. In other words, it should facilitate learning.
- The book should represent good value for money. Value is a relative concept: something considered expensive by someone might be deemed cheap by another person. For a book that covers most of the CPHQ exam content outline, if not all of it, I think $200 (USD) is a reasonable amount to pay.
- The book provides study questions that encourages me to think about key concepts in quality management.
- The book has been used by many successful CPHQ candidates and has been proven to be helpful for passing the exam. (This is a desirable, but not absolutely necessary, criterion.)
I know this is quite a list. There are several books in the market but only two fit the bill.
The Healthcare Quality Handbook 2005 / 2006: A Professional Resource and Study Guide. JB Quality Solutions, Inc.; 20th edition
Price: $185 USD
Authored and revised annually since 1986 by Janet Brown, many people have used this book to prepare for the CPHQ exam.
The approximately 900 pages of this book come in a classy tabbed, two-inch D-ring binder. I found several advantages of having this design:
- Firstly, it can be easily updated by inserting revised pages or modified by the inclusion of my own notes.
- Secondly, you have the option of temporarily removing parts of the book (pages or even a whole chapter) for reading on-the-go, which isn’t possible with a regular book. It was convenient for me to read the removed content during lunch or whenever else I found the opportunity to study. Toting the entire book, on the other hand, is neither necessary nor practical: it weighs about 6.4 pounds (2.9 kg), and measures 11.6 × 11.3 × 3.0 inches (29.4 × 28.6 × 7.6 cm).
- Finally, I like the fact it has a hardcover – the book stands up well on the bookshelf (unlike softcover books) and lasts much longer.
According to its author, the book “covers the entire CPHQ Exam Content Outline and includes Study Questions”. The content outline of this book is certainly very broad, and should provide you most, if not all, of the quality theory you need to know for the exam.
It has loads of quotes, definitions, notes, lists and bullet points. Throughout the book, the author includes references from which her notes are made, which I think is good practice.
The author’s effort in meticulously summarizing the literature over a long period of time is really quite a feat, and the succinctness of her notes lends itself to economical reading.
In addition, background information and details quite specific to the US healthcare system (15-20% of the content) can be found in various sections of the book. Although this information is not directly relevant to the purpose of preparing for the CPHQ exam, healthcare quality professionals may find it, as well as the sample charts, forms, worksheets, quality tools, etc., handy in actual practice.
Sections that have a more direct relationship to the CPHQ exam content outline are highlighted in the text.
Overall, this book gives a good overview of healthcare quality management and should provide most healthcare professionals with sufficient material for the CPHQ exam, even if they don’t buy any other book. It certainly meets all my criteria for a book I’d use for the CPHQ exam.
- Volume of Information
Most people will agree that there’s a lot of information packed in this book. The issue isn’t in what areas the book is lacking but how it might be “too much” for some folks. Imagine reading 900 pages of condensed information on healthcare quality – not particularly fun reading for many people, I suspect. The author’s exam notes that can be found throughout the book (indicating the relevance of the material to the CPHQ exam) partially addresses the ominous task of reading it cover-to-cover.
- Limited Searchability
The content of this book is well indexed. However, it suffers the same problem as other traditional books: looking for specific topics of interest is often not easy, particularly if the key terms searched for are not included in the book’s content outline. Over the years, I’ve created bookmarks for important sections, without which I would spend a considerable amount of time looking for the content of interest to me.
- Lack of Portability
As mentioned above, unless you remove selected pages (as I did), this book is too bulky for carrying around. The removal of pages from the book, however, risks the possibility of them going missing.
- Cost of Shipping & Handling
The regular price of this book is $185, which is quite good value. Shipping and handling will set you back an additional $22 (USA), $24 (Canada) or $54-63 (international orders), depending on where you are in the world. Until a few days ago when I started doing research for this article, I’d forgotten how much I paid for my copy (which is probably a positive reflection on both the value of this book and my CPHQ certification). Shipping, particularly to Asia, is substantial and increases the net cost of the book by about 33%!
In summary, Janet Brown’s The Healthcare Quality Handbook would be an excellent one-book-only solution for the CPHQ exam due to its comprehensiveness and depth. Main disadvantages are its excess detail for the purpose of sitting the CPHQ exam, bulkiness, possible difficulty in finding specific topics especially if they are not in the book’s content outline, and the total cost when shipping and handling are included. The first two problems can be mitigated (as discussed above), while the last two are products of the book’s sheer volume (in terms of both its large amount of information and physical dimensions) and are unavoidable unless a softcopy version is made available. The latter, however, also has its attendant issues.
Q Solutions: Essential Resources for the Healthcare Quality Professional. National Association for Healthcare Quality; 2nd edition (September 1, 2009)
Price for Paperback Edition: $145 (Non-NAHQ Members), $125 (NAHQ Members)
Another solid offering, Q Solutions: Essential Resources for the Healthcare Quality Professional covers the entire CPHQ exam content outline and is edited by two accomplished healthcare quality professionals. Unlike Brown’s The Healthcare Quality Handbook, this book is accompanied by a CD-ROM, which contains the book’s content in a searchable format. Some readers who prefer to read from a computer monitor (like yours truly) will find this feature particularly beneficial. The book is divided into five modules:
Module 1: Foundation, Techniques, and Tools
Module 2: Strategy and Leadership
Module 3: Continuous Readiness
Module 4: Change Management and Innovation
Module 5: Healthcare Safety Culture
The last module was added in the book’s second edition (2009) to correspond with the addition of Patient Safety to the CPHQ exam content outline recently.
Some amendments were also made to the other modules to incorporate some recent changes in the (US) National Healthcare Safety initiatives. The book meets all my criteria above, except one: it lacks study questions. If you wanted to read only one book for the CPHQ exam, this would be a reasonable choice.
Measuring 10 × 6.9 × 0.6 inches (or 25.4 × 17.5 × 1.5 cm) and weighing about 1.3 pounds (0.6 kg), this 247-page book is a lot easier to carry around than Janet’s book. If you prefer, you may view – and search – the book’s content from a laptop computer using the CD-ROM. What you gain in portability, though, needs to be balanced by the sacrifice in details that a larger book, like The Healthcare Quality Handbook, offers.
If you’re in the US and not an National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) member, you should consider buying from Amazon as you may be entitled to free shipping via Amazon’s Super Saver Shipping program at the time of writing this post.
NAHQ members receive a $US20 discount on the regular price if they purchase the book from the NAHQ Online Store.
Even if you are NAHQ member but reside outside the US, it will probably be cheaper to make your purchase from Amazon. As an indication of shipping and handling charges if purchased from the NAHQ Online Store, it will cost $92.80 to get the book sent to Southeast Asia, i.e. nearly two-thirds the cost of the actual book!
The Healthcare Quality Certification Commission (HQCC) has suggested some books and other resources for the CPHQ exam. I bought many of these books when I prepared for the CPHQ exam. In retrospect, I think that was a mistake. I recommend that people buy just one book (i.e., one of the two above) first and read it.
If you feel you need supplementary information, you can always purchase more resources later. With this approach, you can save yourself some money and avoid having more books sitting on the shelf merely collecting dust.
There are also “study guides” and other resources available for CPHQ exam preparation, in physical and online formats. Some are subject to affiliate marketing.
You won’t go wrong with either The Healthcare Quality Handbook or Q Solutions. Neither book is perfect (but what is?), as discussed above. These books will give you most of the theoretical information you need for the CPHQ exam but with each one, you’ll have to make a tradeoff between content and portability.
Statement of Disclosure: I am not associated with the above authors, and I don’t receive any commissions from sales of these products.
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