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A Quick Guide to Quality Improvement in Healthcare

by Barbora Ilic
Nurse with a tablet

In healthcare, your ability to give your patients the best care possible is goal number one. It’s also goals number two and three. And quality improvement is the way for healthcare organizations to achieve those goals.  

What is quality improvement in healthcare?

According to the National Academy of Medicine, quality in healthcare refers to the effectiveness of health services in helping individuals and populations achieve their desired health outcomes, as well as the extent to which healthcare institutions remain current on the latest professional standards of care. 

Essentially, it’s the blueprint that institutions use to systematically refine their processes to achieve those outcomes. This includes standardizing processes and structure, achieving predictable results, and improving overall performance to the benefit of patients, healthcare systems, and society at large. To bring these values to life, healthcare institutions need to optimize and combine technology, culture, and leadership, as well as physical and human capital. 

What are the goals of quality improvement in healthcare?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has published Six Aims for Improving Health Care Quality which provides a framework for healthcare providers. Here’s a breakdown and explanation of each of these aims.

1. Safe Care

It’s a given that any healthcare environment should be safe for all patients. This includes focusing as much on processes as on the care that’s being delivered by front line staff. One area where safety can often be compromised is in the handoff process, such as transferring patients between departments and between healthcare facilities. This also includes shift changeovers and communication from one clinician to another. 

External factors can also be involved, including patients’ families and loved ones. During ongoing contact between patients and these individuals, nurses are in a pivotal position to maintain patient safety by communicating with families and by overseeing patient-visitor interactions. 

2. Effective Care

Effective care comes from staying on top of the latest research and information about treatment efficacy. This includes academic research, clinical trials, epidemiological studies, and outcomes research. 

The IOM recommends that institutions always be expanding their knowledge base about effective care, as well as improving their methods of accessing, summarizing, and assessing information about the latest findings. This includes access to clinical guidelines, step-by-step procedures, and other expert judgment. Clinicians should also periodically review care outcomes to better understand and improve on healthcare quality. 

3. Patient-Centered Care

Some key quality improvement topics in healthcare and patient-centered care include respect for patients’ preferences and expressed needs; coordination and integration of care; information, communication, and education; physical comfort; emotional support; and involvement of family and friends. 

Aspects of patient-centered care like respect for patients’ values have long been incorporated in nursing education programs. Likewise, you should be incorporating them into your facility’s practices. 

4. Timely Care

Healthcare organizations need to take steps to improve the timeliness of care. Too often, we hear about the opposite: overcrowded emergency rooms, delays for patients without insurance, the shortage of available clinicians. In healthcare, delays are the norm rather than the exception. 

A combination of internal and external factors affect timeliness. Internally, analyzing and refining the actual design of processes is key to having more timely care. There needs to be a constant conversation about your patient timeline; how long do patients spend in the different stages of their stay in your facility. 

Technology is your friend when looking to improve your healthcare facility’s timeliness. Surglogs’ medical record-keeping platform is a simple and easy way to streamline a multitude of processes in your facility including; medications, life safety, sterilization, surgical logbooks and much more. 

5. Efficient Care

When we talk about efficiency in healthcare we’re talking about using the financial and tangible resources at your disposal in the most efficient way. Efficiency has not always been a hallmark of the U.S. healthcare system. 

As the growth in health care expenditures continues to rise nationally, reining in high costs while sustaining or improving care quality in your facility is vital. Your team members can create models of where and how resources are being used and pinpoint inefficiencies. This, in turn, simultaneously reduces costs and expenditures while improving the quality in your facility.

6. Equitable Care

Equity refers to universal access to health care services. While those in the healthcare industry might in theory agree that equity is important, the reality is that patients do not all have the same access to healthcare services. 

Challenges for equity within your facility can differ depending on location, funding, and access to resources. Disparities created by this inequity relate to ethnic and socioeconomic groups, lack of health insurance or underinsurance, and geographic inequity like rural practices that can limit access to the services available. 

Healthcare providers should do whatever is within their power to address issues of equity. This should start with an internal data analysis to determine possible barriers to equity, but it also includes a bit of soul-searching to figure out what the institution can do to remove these barriers.

Digital record-keeping for quality improvement in healthcare

There are many ways you can approach quality improvement in healthcare. Today’s medical industry has a multitude of tools which can help you bring your quality improvement plan to life. 

Digital Logs

You can create digital logs or checklists that streamline all of your processes. You can create digital logs for things like infection control, daily housekeeping checklists all the way up to something like fire safety. At Surglog’s we have a fully digital app which can create these digital logs for you. Our Digital Log’s ensure your internal processes are as efficient and effective as possible. Quality improvement relies on efficiency, timeliness, safety, and patient-centric record-keeping, all of which digital logs can provide. 

Digitized Procedure Logbooks

A digitized procedure logbook allows any member of your team to instantly check procedure records of your facility. Making care more timely and in turn safer. This way team members can be updated in real time about any complications, any possible vendor recalls on materials used, and where the patient is in their recovery process. This then makes tracking procedures and assets less labor-intensive and more time-efficient. Tracking procedures with Surglogs Procedure Logbook for example is 95% faster than using pen-and-paper.

Digitized Narcotic Logbook

Having a digitized logbook of specific medications and users saves time, money and potential misusage. For example, Surglog’s Narcotic Logbook’s running inventory count makes it easier to see exactly what medications your facility has. You can track inventory counts of medication entered into your system across all of your medication cabinets, and monitor daily activity with digital AM/PM reporting. You also need to control access to the inventory by only authorizing licensed users to access the medications. 

This simplifies record-keeping for facilities of any size and allows you to identify potential abuses. The highest security measures of a narcotics logbook prevent data loss, speed up your efficiency, support patient and practitioner safety and increase quality in your facility.

Final Thoughts

Quality improvement in healthcare is a process. It will take time for your organization to get everything on the same page. The latest digital tools, when deployed intelligently, can help you get there faster while also taking much of the burden off your front line staff, who can then spend more of their time focusing on delivering great care.

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