Quality Is Not a Department

Quality Is Not a Department

A recent report from NAHQ (National Association of Healthcare Quality) found that three-quarters of hospitals had a quality department. But to achieve hassle-free healthcare and zero harm, it will take more than a department to achieve the results desired.


“The National Association for Healthcare Quality just released a report on Quality professionals in health care, and it turns out that in a lot of the situations, about three-quarters of the people responding reported that in their hospital or wherever, that Quality was a department, and in about a quarter [of the responses] Quality was individuals working on stuff.

“Let me be clear about this: Quality is not a department. The only way you’re going to get the level of quality that you want to achieve (and in healthcare that’s Zero Harm) is if everybody is involved in Quality, everybody understands the tools, and everybody moves forward. Just this last week we had one large hospital that asked for a quote for 12,000 licenses of the QI Macros. That means they want to implement Quality everywhere. All right, this is exciting. This is exciting!

“I think this is how we can start to get places, but Quality is not a department. It is not an individual, right? We have to get everyone engaged in making those little tweaks and changes and everything else that makes everything better all the time and sustains the new levels of performance as we improve. That’s where most [organizations] fail is in sustaining the improvements, so if you don’t understand control charts you’re not going to understand when it starts to go out of control, what to do about it when that happens. You’re not going to understand and you’ll be right back where you were a few weeks ago.

“So instead of making Quality a department, let’s make quality the way things happen. It’s just something we always do. You know, Ford had that “Quality is job one” (which sounded good, but I’m not sure they ever quite got there) but they were working on it.

“So these are the ideas that we want to change, right? But to do that, we have to get more and more people involved. You can’t be the lone Quality guru, right? You can’t be the Lone Ranger, right? You can’t. That’s not how it’s going to work, because if you do then you just end up doing all the charts for the company and you don’t make any improvements, and pretty soon they wonder why you’re still there and, “Let’s reassign you to something that’s more productive.” I know because I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people.

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s create a hassle-free America; let’s create hassle-free health care. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”