Quality Improvement Tools of the Trade

Quality Improvement Tools of the Trade
The following tools are meant to help you better understand and improve how work is done in your practice.
Many of these tools come from the improvement method called Lean. Lean is not simply a set of tools – It is a
problem solving approach for continuous daily improvement. A Lean approach can create increased value for
you patients by eliminating wasteful activities. Your Lean strategies should focus how you do your work. For
more about Lean refer to the Advanced Access and Efficiency Workbook Section 6 and Step 4 of the Roadmap.
Process Map - A picture of the process which illustrates the steps
involved, the people involved and any decision points. Used to
communicate and standardize processes. Examples in primary
care: office visit, flu clinic, referral process and FOBT screening
Value Stream Map - Key data is captured for core activities
of the process including cycle time, people involved, delays,
and inventory. Value added and non-value added (waste)
within the process is identified. Examples in primary care:
new patient intake, office visit, referral process.
Fishbone (Cause and Effect Diagram) - A tool used to collect
and organize knowledge about potential causes of problems
or variation in a process. Examples in primary care: delays
during the appointment, inconsistent cancer screening in
eligible population.
References: The Improvement Guide 2nd edition: Langley G, Moen R, Nolan k, Nolan T, Norman C, Provost L, Jossey-Bass 2009
Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare- E-zsigma (PPT) QIIP Student Book
“Vital few”
Pareto Chart - This tool is used to focus effort on the areas of
improvement with the greatest potential impact. It illustrates
the 80-20 rule; 80% of the problems are due to 20% of the
causes or “the vital few”. Examples in primary care: reasons for
interruptions at appointment, reasons for no shows.
Classifications- qualitative data
Spaghetti Diagram- A tool used to highlight excessive
movement of people or materials. It can also be used to track
paper flow. Examples in primary care: steps taken by nurse
through clinic, movement of referral form through office.
5-S A lean principle is to identify and eliminate waste through improved workplace organization through the
following five actions; sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. A 6th S, safety is often included.
Examples in Primary Care - Front desk workstation – sort all forms so they are easily accessible, set incoming
and outgoing documents in order of priority, shine computer workstation, standardize process to answer
patient phone calls to ensure consistent messaging, sustain new changes by creating visual cues as reminders,
review ergonomics of workstation to ensure a safe workstation.
5-Why’s a question asking technique to help identify the root cause of a problem. When you think you have
the cause ask– Why is this cause present? Keep asking why 5 times or until you cannot go any further. In
order to check if you have the root cause, ask the question – If we solve each cause (5 to 1) will it solve the
problem? For example:
Problem –There are no available exam rooms to see patients in…
1. Why? A patient was in the room waiting to have their ECG.
2. Why? We could not find the portable ECG machine.
3. Why? It had broken and was out for repair.
4. Why? It had not been regularly checked for wear.
5. Why? We do not have an equipment maintenance schedule.......
If we have an equipment maintenance schedule that is followed would the portable ECG machine have been
checked, yes. Would having the machine checked regularly kept it in good repair, yes and so on….
References: The Improvement Guide 2nd edition: Langley G, Moen R, Nolan k, Nolan T, Norman C, Provost L, Jossey-Bass 2009
Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare- E-zsigma (PPT) QIIP Student Book