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4 Essential Elements for a Quality Improvement Culture

March 18, 2014
By Cindy Hutter

Quality Improvement

A quality improvement (QI) culture is one that seeks to continually improve outcomes. From large hospitals to boutique independent pediatric practices, organizations that reliably do this have similar qualities. Above all else, they embrace the need for change by acknowledging that organizations can always improve and instead of placing blame for flaws, sees those "failures" as opportunities to learn, make improvements and do better.
 
For those looking to establish a quality improvement culture within their organization, it's essential to make sure these four elements are in place.
 

  1. Leadership support
    No surprise here, leadership support is essential to making any change in an organization. Quality improvement is an evolutionary, not revolutionary, process. Leaders need to walk the walk of quality improvement and show they are comfortable with incremental improvement. Employees can sense when leaders are not supportive, which will make it harder for them to get into a quality improvement mindset.

  2. Continual feedback
    As the quality improvement mantra goes, you can't improve what you can't measure. A quality improvement culture includes an environment where using data and feedback to keep measuring efforts are the norm. "There is always an opportunity to do it better. In many ways, data is often the guide because numbers don't lie," says Amanda Norton, an improvement faculty advisor for NICHQ. "Being able to reflect back on data and identify if there could be true failures in the system helps get people to look at improvement differently."

  3. Involvement of the customer in the solution
    Having a person who lives the experience of a product or service involved in improvement discussions is essential to the success of quality improvement work. Customer participation means the improvement team doesn't have to speculate about what may or may not have an impact on users of the product or service. It also shows an openness to discovering new solutions.

  4. Willingness to fail to ultimately succeed
    Organizations with quality improvement cultures look at failing as a way to learn and grow. "Saying you can’t do quality improvement because you are afraid to fail is a misnomer. You are already failing; you just haven’t looked at it as an opportunity for improvement," says Norton.

Establishing a culture of quality improvement is not only possible, it's really motivational, says Norton. "It gives you the opportunity to be a much more effective and efficient organization. It often puts a company in a place where it is much more sensitive to the needs of its clients. "

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