Healthcare organizations always seek to improve the quality of care they provide to patients. This is why they always employ Quality Improvement Process Steps to take continually throughout the organization from top to bottom levels and vice versa. In order for quality to be maintained, processes have to be continuously improved upon. The way healthcare organizations do this is by employing quality improvement steps that feed into each other to produce a continuous circle of quality improvement.
Major Quality Improvement Process Steps
If something is not measured, it can be improved upon. This is a popular saying and it holds true for quality improvement in healthcare organizations. Measuring processes, actions and even mistakes helps kick off the quality improvement initiatives is it shows what is wrong, what can be improved, and what is working. One way to measure is by measuring key performance indicators (KPIs).
Document The Processes
In order to improve the quality of a process, the process must be documented. This ties in with the point above about measuring it. You measure, and then you document and then you improve. This can best be accomplished documenting your processes and ensuring that the way the work is actually done matches the documentation. Documenting your processes is not glamorous work, but quality improvement requires that things be done consistently.
Focus on The Process, Not The People
Usually, the problem lies in the process and not in the people carrying them out. In order to improve quality, the process should be continuously revisited and improved upon. Add new process steps, and check and balances. If you blame the staff or the team for a problem that can be fixed by having a better process, you ruin the morale of the team.
Create a Quality Chart
Process improvement most times involves charts. These charts are usually called process maps and they are used to map out current processes in order to identify areas that need improvement. A quality chart helps concentrate focus on the quality issues and narrow down the effort and resources to problem areas.
Identify Quality Issues
In order to improve quality, the organization has to first identify the quality issues it is facing. Embracing these quality issues is an opportunity to improve. If a healthcare organization stays in denial, it’s quality problems with persists and become worse. Identification and acceptance is a huge step towards improving quality in an organization. Quality issues can be identified using feedback systems for example.
Fix the Problem
When a problem is identified, the healthcare organization must take steps to fix it. This might seem self-evident but sometimes organizations get so carried away by identifying processes and the whole system becomes so convoluted that fixing the actual problem becomes ignored or pushed to the back. When a process problem is identified, resolving the issue must always be the top priority. After the problem is fixed, steps must be put in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. This is why the importance of continuous process improvement cannot be overemphasized. This is why having well-documented processes is the first step to quality improvement. When a flaw in the process is identified, the fix can quickly be rolled out across the entire organization only if everyone is doing things in the same way. While following this course of action sounds simple, it requires a disciplined approach and getting the nuances right can be critical. Properly executed, it will put your enterprise on the path to continuous improvement. In the long run, the rewards will be well worth the effort.
Use a Team
With team effort, a lot more can be done. The process of improving quality can’t be done by just one individual. The process can only be sustained b a team working well together. Only a team for people can effect real and lasting change in an organization. With a team, a variety of perspective can be gotten and through team brainstorming, more effective solutions can be brought forth. Group perspectives lead to solid improvements.
Define Quality from the Customer Perspective
Is already mentioned above, stakeholders are a wealth of information. Customers usually have some of the best insight is on how quality can be improved because they are at the receiving end of the end processes. With customer input, a product or process can always be made better. One company that does this well is Starbucks. Starbuck has made a lot of quality improvement changes to their service and products based on recommendations from customers. They have online customers surveys, are engaging with customers and ask for advice and actually implement the good pieces of advice causing customers to speak up more because they know they are being listened to.
Develop an Organizational Understanding of the Cost of Quality
Sometimes, high cost doesn’t always equate high quality. In the same vein, sometimes pay more for a high-quality item or service gives more reward than going cheap to same money at the moment. Having an organization-wide understanding of this dynamic is important to quality improvement. For example, in the manufacturing industry, it is essential that the manufacturing staff be trained to understand the cost multipliers involved with warranty repair or replacement and cost of damaged reputation. Once the staff takes this perspective, a desire to find the root cause for problem-solving is inherently developed.
Solve Problems Completely
It can be quite tempting to solve a problem only at surface level in order to quickly go back to normal activities. But putting a band-aid over a bullet wound never helped anyone. Process problems should be solved complete and at the root cause not at the symptom level. True solutions should make sure the quality or process problem does not occur again.