The Systems Approach to Achieving Continuous Healthcare Improvement
Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia
This presentation aims to instill systems thinking into the context of healthcare improvement. It summarizes the requirements of systems thinking in healthcare improvement through a number of key principles, and then encapsulate these in a conceptual framework of continuous system improvement. Example cases of practical application will also be presented.
What is the right way to approach the tremendous challenges and opportunities in patient safety, service quality, and health care costs containment? Although in the foreseeable future there is not likely to be a panacea, based on lessons learned from system improvement efforts in the industrial sectors, this presentation argues that a systems approach should be adopted as an important basis for our future efforts. Aiming to instill systems thinking into the context of healthcare improvement, the presentation summarizes the requirements of systems thinking in healthcare improvement in terms of three key principles: systems perspective of healthcare processes, structured problem-solving, and the closed-loop of continuous system improvement. These principles are encapsulated in a conceptual framework of continuous system improvement, which consists of a reference architecture model that can be used as a logical prototype for checking the completeness and integrity of healthcare processes, and an analysis and design process model that identifies the key functional areas (such as analysis, implementation, operations and monitoring) and the relevant analytical tools. These are combined into a closed-loop that provides the basis for an integrated logical approach, which helps researchers, practitioners and students better understand what functions, issues, and analytical techniques are involved, where they belong and how they should be applied in a practical situation. Example cases of the framework's practical application are also presented.