Improvement science, like many quality-related disciplines, is rooted in the work of W. Edwards Deming, the 20th century management expert famous for his 14-point management philosophy and statistical process control methods. This discipline holds the promise of simultaneously increasing quality and reducing costs.
In the healthcare industry, Deming’s work is most commonly utilized in the form of the Model for Improvement, a quality model developed by Associates for Process Improvement and used as the foundation of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s work. The model, which provides a basic framework for implementing improvement efforts, poses three questions: - What are we trying to accomplish? - How will we know that a change is an improvement? - What changes can we make that will result in improvement?
The model then utilizes Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles for incremental, iterative tests of change.
Process and statistical tools are a powerful means for driving quality and performance improvement initiatives in healthcare settings. When developed thoughtfully and used well, they also deliver the crucial benefits of better clinical and financial performance outcomes. Below are several helpful resources for the novice and seasoned improvement scientist alike.
As with most pursuits in life, a solid foundation in the fundamentals is critical first step toward mastery. In the quality improvement realm, Deming’s Theory of Profound Knowledge explains the fundamentals: understanding how system work, recognizing the importance of variation and its consequences, knowing the difference between theory and experience, and understanding the psychology of participants in the system.
For those new to the world of improvement science or those looking to dig deeper, a grounding in a classroom setting may be the best bet. EdX, a massive open online course provider, offers Practical Improvement Science in Health Care: A Roadmap for Getting Results. The course is taught by industry experts, does an excellent job of covering improvement science concepts in a way that has depth while still being accessible, and as of this writing is free.