What Is Quality Process Improvement

January 6, 2023

The term quality improvement (QI) was first coined in 1960 by Dr. David Burns, an internal medicine physician at Stanford Medical School. While working as a consultant for hospital systems, he noticed that some of their practices were improving and wanted to know what made them tick.

He came up with the concept of process improvement, which is now more commonly referred to as QI. At the time, his ideas were not well-received because people thought it meant making things worse.

Since then, many industries have adopted the idea of QI, including health care. It has become one of the most effective ways to improve patient outcomes while reducing costs.

Many hospitals and medical groups use systematic approaches to QI. These strategies are focused on five basic components: leadership commitment, staff engagement, data collection and analysis, action planning and evaluation.

It can be difficult to implement all five components into practice, especially when budgets are tight. That’s where projects come in. A project is a short, goal-oriented activity designed to test out one component or all components simultaneously.

Projects usually last around six months and are funded separately from routine activities. This allows them to move quickly without worrying about budget constraints.

Here are the top ten reasons why projects are important for your clinic. Read on to learn more about how you can apply these benefits to your own practice!


History of quality process improvement

what is quality process improvement

Quality is an ever-evolving concept that has many different definitions depending on what field you are in. For example, in business administration, quality means how well products or services fulfill their purpose and satisfy customers. In engineering, quality refers to the degree to which a product conforms to specifications.

In healthcare, quality usually refers to good outcomes for patients. Systems that produce poor results can be fixed, so professionals use quality to determine if changes should be made to improve the system. This is called quality process improvement (QPI).

The term “quality” was coined during the industrial revolution when people began using scientific methods to evaluate how well manufactured goods worked. Since then, it has grown into a way to assess not just whether something works but how well it works. The word itself comes from the Latin words qualis, meaning excellent, and faciō, meaning to do.1

Since those early days, QPI has been used in various industries to make sure things work properly and efficiently. Businesses now use this technique to identify ways to make their processes more efficient, effective, and sometimes even fun!2

Quality experts have organized all these applications of QPI by changing the word “process” to match the area being improved. A process reevaluation is said to be done when there is a change in the goal of the process or the method used to achieve that goal.

Definition of the quality circle

what is quality process improvement

The next term you will learn is ‘quality circle’ or sometimes called ‘team effect’, which means that all members work together to improve the existing processes and tools in order to create better ones.

This concept was first conceptualized by W. Edwards Deming in his book Outline of Total Quality Management. He defined it as any group of people coming together to make changes to an organization’s process or product.

The important thing about this definition is that it does not specify whether these changes are for good or bad. It can be both at once! That is what makes it quality oriented.

Quality circles typically include representatives from every level of the company- top management, middle managers, direct reports, etc.- so everyone is involved. This helps promote teamwork and communication skills, as well as raises awareness of processes and how they can be improved.

The cause-and-effect model

what is quality process improvement

One of the most important concepts in quality process improvement is the cause-and-effect model. This theory states that causes create effects, and changing a factor will change an outcome.

The example above used food as an analogy for this concept. If you want to make your stomach feel better, you must first determine what foods are not good and avoid them, and then find new foods to eat.

After doing this, you can assess how well your body is functioning by looking at the numbers related to digestion, nutrient absorption, and so on. Depending on the test results, we could conclude that eating too many carbs or fat may be the problem, and thus try to limit those nutrients while adjusting the other factors (by limiting carb or fat intake, respectively).

This applies to improving business processes as well. For instance, if there’s no proof that people are consistently being asked about during performance reviews, why not ask more frequently? It could help identify potential issues before they become problems, and maybe even inspire employees to give more thoughtful answers.

The 5S quality improvement process

what is quality process improvement

The first step in any successful quality improvement is to identify areas where things are not working as well as they could be. This is how you realize your department’s biggest weaknesses.

Your organization may have a weakness when it comes to delivering its highest priority products on time, but it can’t seem to keep up with demand for its lower priority items.

Or perhaps there’s a constant battle between employees at different levels who want their group to get a higher percentage of work done than everyone else’s, which creates conflict and delays productivity.

These are symptoms of something much bigger – lack of trust or respect within an organizational structure. When this happens, people don’t feel that their ideas matter, that what they say goes, and that they’ll get enough support from others to succeed.

It can also create a feeling of paralysis because nobody knows who will speak out next and no one feels safe sharing their true thoughts and feelings.

Plan, do, review, and adjust

what is quality process improvement

As mentioned before, process improvement is more than just changing something about an existing process or creating a new one. It goes beyond that. The term “process” can be tricky, though.

The word “process” comes from the Latin procere, which means “to lead forward.” As such, improving a process usually entails taking what you are doing well and leading it forward by adding things like steps or processes to make it better.

By this definition, quality process improvement looks at how well your current process works and finds ways to make it even better through research and implementation.

It also examines why those changes work so that you can apply that knowledge to other areas of the organization. For example, testing out an internal chat app to see if there was improved employee productivity.

Lessons learned

what is quality process improvement

A lot of people get process improvement confused with quality management or total quality control. They use these terms interchangeably, which is not an ideal situation as they are different concepts!

Total quality control (TQC) was the practice of ensuring that all parts of a product meet certain standards by testing them before it was put into sale. This is very expensive as it requires dedicated professionals to do this work for you!

Quality management focuses more on how to keep processes working well so that products/services stay within specifications and buyers have what they need to succeed. It does not require specialists to carry out tests, but employees must be trained in good practices so they know what should be done.

Process improvement takes things one step further than quality management as it looks at why a process works now and tries to figure out ways to make it even better. By doing this, it can save time and money for the business while still meeting its goals.

There are several types of process improvements including re-engineerments, redesigns, revamps, and new strategies. While some of these seem similar, each one has their own unique benefits and uses that only they can achieve.

Measurement of quality

what is quality process improvement

The term ‘quality’ has different definitions depending on who you ask. For some, it is only referring to what they perceive as good services or products, while others include how well people feel about a product or service.

The best way to define quality is by creating a framework for it. This can be done by defining meaningful terms such as effectiveness, reliability, safety, efficiency, satisfaction, and value.

By having these qualities in place, we are able to measure if a process is working or not!

Quality processes improve the quality of your business and life through systematic ways to make changes that help you meet your goals and expectations.

They motivate staff to put in extra effort to ensure optimal performance, and keep them motivated once completed.

This helps retain their talent and increase employee morale. At the same time, improved quality processes enhance the experience individuals have when using your company’s services or products.

It also encourages consistency and teamwork, improving productivity and flow. When everything an individual comes into contact with contributes positively to their overall feeling about your organization, this creates a lasting impression that will contribute to their loyalty.

There is no one right way to do things, but there are many wrong ones. By replacing these bad practices with better ones, you create an environment where everyone can succeed.

Key success factors

what is quality process improvement

First, you need to recognize that process improvement is not a panacea. It does not guarantee your company will always be successful in its mission or that more efficient processes will ensure success in the future.

Quality process improvement can also have unexpected negative consequences. For example, improving efficiency of an internal process may result in lower productivity and increased stress for workers.

This could even lead to staff leaving the organization! If you are ever confronted with these issues as part of quality process improvement, you must consider whether it’s worth investing in this project.

If you determine that it is, then you should clearly define what you want to achieve from this initiative. This way, you will know if the changes you make are working towards the goal or not.

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