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Improving patient outcomes and the success of the practice are common goals for healthcare providers. Delivering on these goals requires the involvement of the whole practice team, not just the clinical staff.

The Commonwealth Government is driving quality improvement by incentivising general practices to participate in activities through the Practice Incentives Program’s Quality mprovement Program.

Although focusing on general practice, the principles of improving quality are ones that could benefit any practice, including team-based approaches, peer review, reflective practice, best practice and data analysis.

Whole-of-business approach

Looking at quality improvement across all operations, not just clinical care, benefits patient outcomes and the business.

To obtain engagement and feedback from the practice team about quality improvement initiatives and performance, consider:

  • including quality improvement as a standing agenda item at team meetings
  • providing notice boards or suggestion boxes for the team to contribute their ideas
  • keeping the team up to date with any system or process changes
  • creating short surveys to get the team’s thoughts on initiatives.

Encourage easy-to-implement solutions as this reduces barriers to change. This could be as simple as reviewing processes, then implementing strategies to improve clinical communication and associated processes, for example, regarding pathology tests and reports.

Thinking and doing

The quality improvement process can be split into two components; the thinking and the doing.

The thinking part involves discussions around what to change, the aims and how they will be accomplished. You then need to consider how you will know that a change has delivered an  improvement.

These ideas can be driven from internal issues such as a failing procedure, a patient complaint or a staff resignation. Externally, factors such as Medicare reforms or privacy legislation changes are also good drivers for quality improvement initiatives.

The doing part is about the designing and implementation of the plan. It includes studying the success of the plan, identifying and acting on obstacles and adjusting the plan to ensure its success.

Taking staff on the improvement journey can increase morale and job satisfaction as goals are achieved, making the practice a more desirable place to work.

Tips to drive improvement

  • Keep a register of complaints, incidents, near misses and organisation-wide risk registers to identify risks to the practice.
  • Collaboratively develop a quality improvement plan for the most important changes you want to make in the practice using policy, procedure and sample templates.
  • Document decisions and actions in meeting minutes, making them accessible to the team.
  • Consult with the team on changes to policies and procedures to gain support for them.
  • Increase accountability by having the team sign off on changes.
  • Measure the impact of changes to ensure they have a positive benefit.

This article was originally published in Connect Issue no.13


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