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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Warmer Welcome to Quality Improvement

Without meaning to or wanting to, most of us involved in the work of helping healthcare professionals learn about quality improvement (systematic improvement) have been making it more difficult than it needs to be for those new to our field.

It is possible to provide a much more welcoming introduction to Quality Improvement. It is all the more important that we do so now that QI is required by medical specialty boards, by the ACGME of residency and fellows programs, and by the Joint Commission.

What can we do?

- We can demystify improvement science as rapidly as possible. We can invite those new to QI to go through a rapid, self-assessment inventory that lays out in straightforward, down to earth language what we are talking about.

- We can encourage those who go through this sort of self-assessment to identify first what they already know about QI and what they already are able to do (what they bring to the party). We should explain that much of what they already do in their clinical work and in the way of clinical reasoning just needs to be applied here, in QI work, to the processes, procedures and systems in their particular practice settings. The only difference is that here you "think of the practice as your patient" (Ogrinc and Headrick).

- We can also encourage those new to improvement work to identify those aspects of QI with which they would appreciate some help. We should make it clear that they don't have to know it all in order to embark on meaningful and productive improvement efforts.

- And, of course, we can help them to identify other things they would like to learn more about. 

When the individuals and teams we are coaching begin to work on various phases of improvement initiatives, they and those of us supporting them should be in a much better position to consider what sorts of resources, resource people, experiences and/or structured activities might prove especially useful for them. Our role should be to help clinicians identify and build on their existing strengths while at the same time encouraging them to seek out the help they need and to learn more about those things they want to know more about or to be able to do next.

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