What is Quality Improvement?
Paul Batalden has defined quality improvement as: “the combined and unceasing efforts of everyone – healthcare professionals, patients and their families, researchers, payers, planners and educators – to make the changes that will lead to better patient outcomes (health), better system performance (care) and better professional development (learning)”
Quality improvement (QI) goes beyond traditional management, target setting and policy making. QI methodology is best applied when tackling complex adaptive problems – where the problem isn’t completely understood and where the answer isn’t known – for example, how to reduce frequency of violence on inpatient mental health wards. QI utilises the subject matter expertise of people closest to the issue – staff and service users – to identify potential solutions and test them.
To truly achieve the improvement in quality, outcomes and cost that the healthcare system needs, we need to make this goal part of everyone’s daily work. QI helps by:
- bringing a systematic approach to tackling complex problems
- focusing on outcomes
- flattening hierarchies
- giving everyone a voice, and bringing staff and service users together to improve and redesign the way that care is provided
When done well, QI can release great creativity and innovation in tackling complex issues which services have struggled to solve for many years. The types of problems that we should be using quality improvement to tackle, are those that require not only changes in behaviours or preferences, but also hearts and minds.