CPHQ Exam Preparation: Recommended Books

For preparing for the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) examination, only two books stand out among the pack.

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The information contained in the post below, originally published on June 26, 2010, is out of date.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:

  1. Janet Brown’s The Healthcare Quality Handbook, 20th edition
  2. 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If you have concerns that the current edition is outdated because it has not changed since 2018, I’d say that they are unjustified because the CPHQ exam content outline was last revised in January 2018.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Q Solutions has been superseded by HQ Solutions: Resource for the Healthcare Quality Professional, 4th Edition.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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The book provides study questions that encourages me to think about key concepts in quality management.
  5. 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.

Are There Any Problems With “The Healthcare Quality Handbook”?

  • 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!

Other Books and Resources

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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  1. Hi Andy,
    I’ve got a used Quality Handbook 2010/2011, 25th Edition. Now the most updated version is 2014/2015, 28th. Do you think it’s ok I use the one I got instead of purchasing the 28th. I’m in China, the shipping is incredibably expensive. Thank you very much.


    1. @Lee – The 25th edition of The Healthcare Quality Handbook will be sufficient IMHO. You need not purchase the latest edition. They are similar, and the deficiencies in the 25th edition are largely present in the 28th edition as well. Regardless of which edition you use, I recommend you explore other resources (books, websites, or anything else you can get hold of) that will help close gaps in knowledge not addressed by this book. All the best in your exam preparation!

  2. Hii andy

    I am currently working as an Quality Assurance executive in a JCI accreditated organisation in the UAE. I wish to take CPHQ this year. However, i am quite confused about where to begin. A bundle of training courses available in the market are priced very high. Is it required to take them. Your advice in how to go about in the preparation phase shallbe very valuable.
    Thanks. Waiting for your reply

    1. @she – A key tenet of our approach to CPHQ exam preparation – or to any other meaningful endeavor – is that the work to be done fits the job at hand. If you are well prepared – say, from natural acumen, experience, and strong ability to apply your current knowledge and skills, I would tend to believe you merely need some practice questions. Many subscribers to CPHQ Tutor fall in this category of CPHQ candidates. On the other hand, there are also candidates who are clearly inadequately prepared, due to lack of relevant knowledge and skills or for some other reason – these persons will likely benefit from:

      1. Identifying their gaps in knowledge and skills relative to the tasks on the CPHQ exam content outline; and
      2. Accessing resources that will help them close those identified gaps.

      Most materials available on the market are not particularly sophisticated; almost all assume little background knowledge and are most suitable for entry-level candidates. In view of the purported meaning of the CPHQ credential, such materials offer limited value, in our opinion. True CPHQ exam prep resources, we believe, should prepare folks for the CPHQ exam, i.e. at a level respectful of most CPHQ candidates’ knowledge, skills, and experience, and NOT banal stuff, which the vast majority of people already know! Reading things you already know may boost your confidence but it doesn’t really help to improve your exam score; it’s a waste of time and effort (and money if you had made a financial investment).

      The question of value is an interesting one. Some people pay $670 for a prep package and find absolutely zero value in it because they failed to achieve a passing score on the actual test (sometimes more than once!). There are a few reasons for this but we’ll mention the most obvious one here. The assumption that any ready-made, non-customizable package/course can cover all there is to know for the exam is false; otherwise, almost everyone taking it would pass (!), which would actually devalue the CPHQ credential substantially. Such resources fail because they are a one-size-fits-all “solution”; they don’t fit everyone’s needs. On the other hand, there are some people who are willing and happy to pay in excess of $8500 for our one-to-one coaching program that addresses all their areas of concern, accompanied by a no-nonsense 100% money-back guarantee. These individuals view such a program as a genuine investment in their career, producing a sure result minus all sorts of hassles. (Disclaimer: Our CPHQ private coaching program was the first of its kind and remains the only one with an unblemished track record; it has always been and will always be backed by a 100% money-back guarantee. But I’m not promoting our program here, per se; I don’t need to – due to the waiting list and my other work commitments, we’re not accepting any new student into the program for at least the next 7–8 months!) The exam fee for international CPHQ candidates is not cheap ($515 if you’re not a NAHQ member, and $445 if you are, at the time of writing). For some, passing the CPHQ exam is not an option or it must be done within a specific time frame for professional reasons. The monetary cost, relative success rate, opportunity cost (if you don’t make the grade) and career-sensitive factors should be considered when evaluating the value of any CPHQ exam preparation resource.

  3. sir,
    I kindly request a feed back on how to get the CPHQ courses and its certificate . Also , I want to know if this certificate is approved by the national and international authorities.

    1. @abdulkarim alfadel – A number of CPHQ exam preparation courses, offered by different providers, are available through the year. They vary greatly in terms of quality and effectiveness. Access to these courses depends on the provider. Unfortunately for you, all our CPHQ exam preparation workshops scheduled for 2018 have sold out. If you’d like more information about our workshops, e.g. dates, venues, etc., and/or wish to be placed on one or more waiting lists, kindly send an e-mail to info@tehandassociates.com . One of my associates will get back to you within one business day. CPHQ certification requires you to pass only one exam, i.e., the CPHQ exam. You may apply for the CPHQ exam here. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “national and international authorities.” Suffice to say, the CPHQ credential is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the accrediting arm of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence in Washington, DC, USA. CPHQ certification, like any other certification, is not the same as licensing.

  4. HI Andy,
    I don’t have previous experience in healthcare quality. do you think that I will pass CPHQ exam with Q Solution Book only where I have master of HCA and I have quality basics.
    Thank you

    1. @NAYEF ALQAHTANI – With the information you’ve provided, it’s difficult to say if you have a reasonable chance of passing the CPHQ exam using ‘Q Solutions’ as your sole exam prep material. Although, I’m aware of some candidates who have passed the exam with less than that, I’d be inclined to believe you’ll need more resources.

  5. Hello wondering if there’s any review classes coming up soon for the CPHQ, and also what study materials are available to prep for this exam.
    Thank you.

    1. @Nwa – Our CPHQ exam prep workshops scheduled for 2019 have sold out. There are quite a number of resources available on the market to help you prepare for the CPHQ exam. Materials for our private coaching students are not available to others. The only materials we have made available to all candidates (including our private coaching students) are found on the CPHQ Tutor website.

      1. Thank you for the very quick reply but I don’t see anything on “private coaching”. Or is it same as the monthly subscriptions?

        1. @Nwa – Private CPHQ coaching is not the same as the resources available through the CPHQ Tutor website. Our private coaching program includes an initial assessment of the student’s needs and, based on the assessment, tailored instruction provided on a one-to-one basis (usually via a combination of face-to-face and online interaction). All materials necessary to secure a passing mark are included – this means my private CPHQ Tutor students also enjoy full access to the content available on the CPHQ Tutor website. Entry into the program is on a rolling basis and is subject to a screening process. Unfortunately, due to a waiting list and my other work commitments, we are not accepting any new students until January 2020.

    1. @Bertha Ansley – We’ve placed your name on the waiting list. Enrollment is on a rolling basis. You can expect to hear back from us later this year. Thank you.

    1. @Angela – All our CPHQ exam prep workshops scheduled for 2020 have been canceled due to the almost universal restrictions in movement enforced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are not running any structured online course for CPHQ exam preparation in 2020. CPHQ Tutor offers resources that will likely improve your performance on the CPHQ exam; among other materials, the resources available on the website are also used by our private CPHQ coaching students.

  6. Hi! I have taken two CPHQ practice exams and scored in mid 80s to 90s in each domain except Health Data Analytics. What resource might be good to help plug that gap?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Damon,

      The best resource in this situation is relevant experience in the field. If this were not possible, a workable strategy will include attempting a variety of practice questions that deal with the items in the “Health Data Analytics” content category (such as those in the quiz we will publish on or before January 31 – “Quiz -Health Data Analytics (version 13.2.1).” Such questions should help you identify the areas within that content category where you need to improve – subsequent work will likely involve reading/study, more practice questions and perhaps discussion or conversations with the right people. This strategy I have just outlined is still more practical, more efficient and probably more effective than simply picking up a book on healthcare quality and reading the chapters you believe will close your knowledge/skills gap.

      A parallel strategy is to improve your performance in the other content categories. For example, answering more than 90% of the questions in each of the other content categories correctly will partially compensate for underperformance (say, less than 72-75%) in the “Health Data Analytics” content category. The passing score on the CPHQ exam is based on the sum of questions you answered correctly, not the number or percentage of questions you got right in any individual content category per se (though the latter will contribute to your total score).

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