Quality improvement is a system by which better health outcomes are achieved through analysing and improving service delivery processes. Is the combined and unceasing efforts of everyone—healthcare professionals, patients and their families, researchers, payers, planners and educator to make the changes that will lead to better patient outcomes (health), better system performance (care) and better professional development (learning)
This definition arises from our conviction that healthcare will not realize its full potential unless change making becomes an intrinsic part of everyone’s job, every day, in all parts of the system.
Although all improvement involves change, not all changes are improvement.
To achieve improvement, fundamentally it requires us to understand what is happening in the delivery of our health services, what factors affect delivery and how we can influence them.
Data therefore helps to ‘push’ improvement by identifying problems, and to ‘pull’ improvement by identifying opportunities. Data helps us to understand and improve our service by giving us the tools to describe what’s going on and to compare our performance, either against known standards or against previous performance.
To understand the role of data in quality improvement more clearly it is useful to consider the five phases of the quality improvement cycle.
The phases of the quality improvement cycle
1. Project definition phase – What is the question or problem?
This involves identifying the ‘area of interest’ or potential problem area. All quality improvement activities start with a problem or a question, for example Why is the post-surgery infection rate higher in our hospital/department than other comparable hospitals/departments?
Are clients satisfied with current waiting times at our clinic? As mentioned earlier, data helps to ‘push’ improvement by identifying problems, and to ‘pull’...