4 steps to improve hospital quality

Hospitals are seeing fewer central line infections and better patient outcomes, thanks to quality improvement initiatives, AHA News Now reported. Whether using Lean, Six Sigma or other models, hospitals can apply four steps to improve quality, according to the latest AHA Trendwatch report.

1. Identify where to focus quality improvement efforts.
To do so, hospitals must determine potential benefits and the likelihood of success. Hospitals also can use data to pick out targets for quality improvement. For example, evidence-based protocols led to 67 percent drop in central line-associated bloodstream infections in NICUs across New York, according to the report.  

2. Decide what process can be adjusted to improve outcomes.  
Despite having safety protocols in place, hospitals still have room to improve. Many facilities thought their hand hygiene compliance rate was between 70 percent and 90 percent, when it was actually less than 50 percent, the report noted. It also highlighted how one hospital modified its process for cleaning curtains to better prevent the potential spread of bacteria on items, including lab coats.

3. Develop and establish effective improvement strategies.
Quality improvements and related cost savings require well-designed, well-executed programs. Providers can partner with independent, quality-focused organizations to develop effective strategies, the study noted. Johns Hopkins, for instance, worked with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to implement a comprehensive unit-based safety program (CUSP), which reduced surgical site infections by 33 percent in patients undergoing colorectal procedures, according to a study in the August Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

4. Monitor and share results.
To drive improvements, collect data and measure performance. Tracking hospital quality initiatives can reveal where hospitals have made significant improvements, as well as what areas still need work. Although quality improvement should be tailored to the specific needs of a facility or department, broadly distributing effective strategies is vital to replicating success across a system and at hospitals nationwide.

Meanwhile, quality improvement initiatives, such as continuous learning, research and external reporting and public patient experience surveys, are traits of a high-performing system, according to the American Medical Group Association's new definition.

For more:
- read the AHA News Now brief
- here's the report (.pdf)