Setting up Hospital Quality System-six simple steps

When I was new to the healthcare management, I used to wonder how to initiate and setup quality system in a new hospital? What to do first and what to do next. As I suggested in my previous article, the setting up quality system should be initiate from the stage of civil planning. While looking for information, I came across an article on ‘Ford Assembly line’ and that gave me an idea to develop my own approach, assuming services as product and various execution stages as assembly docks which will refine and bring services in shape. The first and the most important step is to identify the services provided by the hospital and its focus areas.

For the selected services, organization should identify various processes & activities their flow with interdependent activities. Eg. If a high end trauma unit is the in the scope of services then one has to define process of delivering services, which will leads to resource planning (including neuro, ortho, reconstructive surgery as support services which will be requiring man, machine and material) and in turn will impact the civil drawings to accommodate them. This should be done by a cross functional team including quality champions, administrators, architect & doctors. The flow should be patient friendly and should address universal guidelines provided by national or international regulatory bodies. When the activities & detailed workflows are defined, the next step is to define procedures to perform these processes; rules to follow these procedures; how to follow procedures as work instruction. These are collected as documents known as SOPs, Policies and collectively called as manuals. eg. Process of trauma patient care include one procedure as triaging defined stepwise details in SOP; rules to follow during triaging including zoning, colour codes, responsibility matrix etc. will be covered in policy.

Who will execute these processes & policies? Before implementation Staff Awareness is required.  A detailed plan has to be made for training the staff as soon as they join the organization. While training, the points should be clear that how to do it, rules to follow, what if things went wrong & overall expectation. The comprehensive training programme can be divided in Universal Induction, department induction and continuous refresher training. The training content should be customized according to different categories of staff eg. Nursing, doctors etc. for better results. It should not be just dump of information but in small pieces so that the employee can absorb it. This would be time consuming process. Never forget to check the staff understanding towards these processes.

While the staff getting prepared for implementation, a parallel plan to be prepared on how to communicate and make our patients/visitors aware about our system. Patient’s awareness should be aligned to vision & mission of the top management. Eg if hospital is talking about ethical & transparent clinical practices in the mission statement, it should provide information regarding clinician’s protocols; doctor to patient communication, regular counselling during treatment/surgeries, how we take consent and why it’s important; what are the patient rights; how our feedback system works; what are our codes of conduct for patient care etc. Medium of communication is also very important aspect.

It’s very important to follow the process but it is more important to track whether these have been followed correctly with desirable outcome. That’s why key performance indicators and quality indicators come into picture which quantifies the procedures. These can be defined by identifying processes important to the management. For better understanding & for impact analysis, these can be collected in logical fashion under various dashboards with the aim of creating a decision support system. Identification of these QI & KPI can be during the first step but implementation and tracking would be done while hospital is operational.

Tracking & analysis of QI & KPI is a continuous process. Shortcomings or deviation from the assigned benchmark should be evaluated thoroughly. Root Cause Analysis, internal audits are the tools helping us to identify defects in the process or how the things went wrong. These audits must focus on processes not on an individual. Corrective action can be taken by the front team after consent from superiors but the preventive actions must be executed after through discussion amongst multi-disciplinary team. Preventive action will lead to change in the design of the complete system including SOPs & Policies. This will not only impact the hospital operations but also the finances. eg. If hospital identify the cause of decreasing hand hygiene rates as non-availability of disinfectants & training process, preventive measure may include adding-up more locations for keeping disinfectants which will leads to increase in inventory & cost, training staff repeatedly on usage thus impact on working shifts, changing the training process to increase its impact or policy of inclusion of bedside disinfectant bottle charges in bills etc.

This is a cycle and gets repeated during hospital operations for existing services & processes. Even new processes go through same sequence of synthesis.

Hospital Quality System setup

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are purely the thought of the author and are not meant to be derogatory to any institution or organisation. The author is open to further discussions. Thank you for your patience and tolerance.