Principles of Quality Improvement in Healthcare


Principles of quality improvement in healthcare is an ongoing process. A variety of principles or methods exist in the hopes of improving healthcare. Additionally, many groups are taking steps to implement quality improvement principles that have been successful in other industries, such as those that helped the auto industry thrive. Those principles, called the Deming principles, may apply to healthcare as well. In all instances, the goal is quite simply to take steps to improve all aspects of the healthcare industry in terms of methodology and patient care.

Focusing on Quality Improvement

Quality Improvement, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, involves the systematic and continues actions that are taken and lead to measurable improvement within the health status of patients or within health care services in general. Principles explain how things are done. Improving principles of quality improvement in healthcare can only better everyone involved.

Key Principles That Could Impact Healthcare

Consider how some of the principles from Dr. William Edwards Deming can be applied to the healthcare industry.

Manage Complex Challenges Through Process Management

The development of these principles stems from the need to deal with complex challenges. Through the use of process management, it's possible to break down complex components to find a simple, but highly effective solution. Process management is applicable to most industries, including healthcare, though it is rarely put into place in this area. In short, healthcare is a mass of interconnected links, as Health Catalyst states. When process management is applied, it breaks down these complex components into smaller, easier-to-manage bits.

Changes Must Be Measurable

To be effective and possible, quality improvement must stem from a place of measurement. That is, if it cannot be measured by data, it cannot be improved upon in this manner. With data, virtually any problem can be overcome and any method improved, without it, there is no way forward.

Focus on the Management of Process

As the National Institutes of Health point out, the focus of any quality improvement in healthcare must focus on the process. More specifically, it is not about managing nurses or doctors. It means managing the process of care. Rather than telling doctors what to do, it is best to approach managing care through clinicians, who better understand the processes.

Healthcare Improvement Means Access to Information That's Fresh

A key component of improving healthcare quality is ensuring data is available. However, it is also important to have up-to-date and accurate data. That's because, as the World Health Organization notes, systematic quality approaches rely on access to up-to-date data. The right data must be available. Additionally, that data needs to be used in the right manner at the right time. And, it has to be given to the right hands to make it actionable. In most cases, clinicians need this information to operate and improve any component of the care process.

Outline the Specific Goals

Another principle that's valuable focuses on the actual goal of any quality improvement. In short, the health service must be delivered in the modern, updated manner. Then, there needs to be a change in health behavior and a change in health status. Ultimately, the end result is improved satisfaction in the patient. By taking a very fundamental problem within the healthcare sector and applying some level of change to it, it is possible to test and develop strategies for continuous improvement.

Utilize the Right People

For improvement to occur, the right people need to be empowered and involved throughout the process. This often comes down to clinicians being identified as the "smart cogs" as Deming points out. These are the most valuable individuals in this force of change because they understand the processes of care. They also are at the very front of the care process, providing that service to the patient, measuring the results, and gauging the change.

Ultimately, there is a need (and a growing one at that) for principles of quality improvements in healthcare. Identifying the right people, identifying the individual areas of necessary improvement, supplying data, and driving a goal-based solution may impact every component of the industry and drive successful implementation of these changes.

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