Purpose – The purpose of this article is to provide input to the discussion of quality management (QM) research in health care through a problematization of its defining characteristics, and to identify historical and contemporary trends regarding QM in the scientific discourse on health care.
Design/methodology/approach – This article is based on a literature review of leading journal articles concerning quality management in health care. Articles have been selected based on citation in Scopus and ISI/Web of Science, with a total of 36 articles.
Findings – The review has shown that there are two logics to quality management and improvement work in health care. Dominating the field is an ambition to standardize the provision of health care through an evidence based approach. The other approach is based on a system based logic, aiming to enforce organizational competence and system wide improvement. Unlike the general discourse on quality management is the customer perspective is rather weakly represented in the reviewed literature.
Research limitations/implications – This article provides some insights that may contribute to a better understanding of the conditions for doing research and improvement in health care.
Originality/value – The article provides an overview of the defining characteristics of Quality Management in health care, along with a historical perspective on the theoretical development of Quality related topics in health care research. This provides important input to management researchers entering the health care field. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first review on this topic.