Why Quality Improvement (QI) is so important in a healthcare setting
In this short blog post, Jo Turner, Director of Quality Improvement at IC24, discusses why all healthcare organisations should embrace QI.
by Jo Turner - Director of Quality Improvement
Why Quality Improvement (QI) is so important in a healthcare setting - IC24
Quality Improvement (QI) has a fundamental role in improving all aspects of quality in healthcare – including safety, effectiveness and experience of care. In this short blog post, Jo Turner, Director of Quality Improvement at IC24, discusses why all healthcare organisations should embrace QI.
The overall aim of healthcare QI is simple – provide high-quality care to patients. Yet, as every patient and professional can testify, for every process that works well, there’s another that causes frustration, delay or wasted effort. No one wakes up for work thinking “I’m going to do a really bad job today”, but sometimes processes and systems can get in the way of delivering the best possible service. And this is where QI begins…
QI is a systematic and consistent approach to improvement. At IC24, we use Lean Six Sigma methodology which is applied by utilising the DMAIC framework (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control), a five-phase technique to improve complex problems with multiple solutions.
Tackling problems head on
Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes”. Whilst we are unable to solve the world’s healthcare problems in five minutes, it’s crucial to spend time figuring out the root cause – as this will highlight the core issue that leads to the problem. If you don’t investigate the root cause, you could be in danger of treating the symptom, rather than tackling the problem itself (I call this the ‘sticky plaster’ approach).
One of the greatest challenges facing healthcare today is the need to redesign services to meet the needs of patients and improving quality of care. By background, I’m a Paediatric and Specialist Community Nurse. Looking back at my first foray into QI many years ago, I was newly qualified and working in a paediatric ward. Time and time again, children were being admitted to the ward with constipation, which, with the right resources and support, could have been dealt with much earlier. Adopting a QI approach, I made improvements to this process which delivered better patient outcomes for the children affected.
The concept of taking a preventative approach to problem solving is one of the things that makes the possibilities of QI so exciting. To make improvements, we need to collaborate, engage, and partner with employees and patients who can explain the realities of the service.
Applied in collaboration
It is often cited that improvement in healthcare is 20% technical and 80% human. By engaging colleagues and service users in improvement plans, it helps them to take ownership of how we navigate an everchanging healthcare landscape, and the subsequent challenges we face in delivering best practice. This can be small scale changes or wider transformation of systems and processes across the organisation. QI is a continuous process and cannot be actioned alone by a QI team - it’s a real team effort that includes everyone.
Organisational change is a process – not an event
Here at IC24, we’re practicing the principles of QI daily, and utilising tools and frameworks to support this. This is no easy task and takes conscious thought and support. We’re learning to think differently and approach our challenges in a new way – harnessing the power of digital tools and data methods. Our long-term aim is that QI becomes second nature and ‘the way we do things around here’. Utilising QI is important for all healthcare organisations; I’ve seen first-hand the power it has to engage both clinical and non-clinical colleagues to improve processes and deliver better patient outcomes.
Although it must be remembered that QI cannot be used as a silver bullet for all changes needed, it needs to be applied in collaboration with other approaches as part of a multi-pronged approach. We work together with many departments across our organisation to consider which approach is best suited to which department and how we can work together to resolve problems. We’re on a journey to make tangible improvements to the services IC24 provides, ensuring that we are as efficient and effective as possible.
Keep up to date with IC24’s QI journey by following our dedicated QI Twitter account.