Why is measuring quality important?
Peter Drucker once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. Quality professionals across different industries have often used this philosophy to recognize current state, encourage continuous improvement and ultimately achieve high level performance for customers and their business. This has become of paramount importance in the healthcare space. In order to improve patient care or realize potential savings, health systems must first understand how they are performing. To stay competitive and provide optimal care, hospitals simply must have quality measurement as one of their core initiatives.
What about quality should be measured?
Focusing on the quality aspect of performance, it is important to track metrics that revolve around quality of care, patient outcomes, and access to care. Within these high-level areas, there are process and outcome measures that can determine if the business is optimizing quality or detracting from it. Centering core metrics and sub metrics around these topics will highlight gaps in quality and pain points that need to be rectified. Increasing awareness of these issues and identifying trends that are not meeting business expectations, or industry best practices, and creates an opportunity for process improvement. For example, tracking metrics around structure could include; the facilities, setting, layout, and personnel. Defining these characteristics can highlight capacity and flow: consult specialist time to see patients in any department, the pharmacy department’s system efficiency for electronic orders, or emergency department’s processes and staff availability to see, care for and discharge patients. Not only does measuring quality highlight internal areas for improvement, but it allows hospitals to benchmark against other healthcare systems to see how they stack up, as well as encourage cross-site collaboration for best practices.
What happens when you measure it?
Once these metrics are properly identified and a baseline is determined, comparison across previous hospital performance or national benchmarks can be done. This will begin to highlight gaps in quality and areas of opportunity. At Improvement Path Systems, we have outlined a hands-on process to identify the root cause, develop improvement opportunities, and implement solutions through our Service Delivery Process. There are extensive methods to determine metrics and areas of focus but a vital aspect to all of them is involving key stakeholders and going to the Gemba; the place where work happens. For example, a dashboard could track different aspects of an emergency patient’s stay; helping establish baselines of performance. Utilizing stakeholder feedback to determine pain points will then further enhance idea creation, stakeholder involvement, and process adoption. It is also important to prioritize projects; it can be overwhelming to try and tackle everything all at once. Focusing on high customer impact areas, as well as processes that affect multiple areas will help narrow down the scope, then continuing down the list of improvements in an agile manner. Measuring quality is a gateway for continuous improvement; knowing it is a life-long journey to deliver excellence.
Look out for the second part of this blog series in July, where we begin to talk about the challenges and strategies for measuring quality.
About the Author
Jess Colon has been with IPS as a healthcare consultant since 2015, with experience working on projects in various departments of the hospital including Emergency Department, Radiology, and Infection Control. Using her client experience, she has also supported various software tools as a Product Owner. She is an ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt implementing many concepts through various process improvement projects. She is currently on the ASQ Six Sigma Forum Leadership team, supporting members in the quality space. Prior to joining IPS, she worked in continuous improvement for manufacturing medical devices.