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Cyndi Krause

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ASC Quality Improvement: It Takes a Village

ASC Quality Improvement: It Takes a Village

From patient satisfaction to financial success, quality improvement (QI) initiatives can positively impact all areas of your ambulatory surgery center (ASC) — there are no boundaries. In fact, engaging in QI can often catapult a facility from average to a top performer. Despite the potential benefits, QI is easy to neglect when you are caught up in the day-to-day (and often mundane) tasks of managing a busy surgery center.

Yet for QI to be successful, it must create measurable improvements in health care services and patient outcomes — a process that requires continuous constructive action and collaboration among your staff at all levels of the organization. Let’s take a look at some of the critical success factors.

Involve Staff to Achieve QI Success

It takes a village to become a leading ASC, so involve your staff. You can engage your employees by implementing QI forums or assigning teams to develop a QI study. These activities not only provide a sense of ownership but also aid in the professional development of your staff.

As Peter Shepherd, author of Daring to be Yourself, once said, “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” Empowering your staff to initiate QI is an invaluable gift; one that will not only provide employee and patient satisfaction but also an effective way to achieve success.

Communicate the vision.

Why is it so important to communicate the vision? Because it describes what a company desires for the future and its intentions on how to achieve it. For instance, an ASC’s vision may be to deliver high-quality care through continuous commitment to QI and leading technology. Communicating that to your employees will help them understand the “whys” behind what’s being asked of them and aid in the achievement of that vision.

Invite and accept staff input.

Listen to your staff — they are the ones working side-by-side with patients each and every day. As such, they have intimate knowledge of what is working well, what needs re-thinking, or what needs simply improving. They have ideas and are usually motivated to provide input.

Knowing this, create an environment for staff to speak freely. Offering a suggestion box, holding a QI forum, or hosting a roundtable are a few ways to do this. Regardless of the method, keep any gathering short, fun, and welcoming for your busy staff.

If you opt for a meeting, consider doing it in two stages.

  • First meeting: Discuss your goals and express your excitement of wanting to improve the surgery center as a team. Ask staff to contribute to the plan by writing down items like patient complaints, efficiency issues, challenges, suggestions, etc. over a couple of weeks. Let staff know how and when to submit these to you, including options for anonymous suggestions.
  • Second meeting: Talk about the items that were submitted and allow everyone to provide input. Have employees help prioritize the issues they would most like to see improved. Then ask for volunteers, assign teams, and let them take action.

Provide clear expectations and then step back.

Believe it or not, everyone wants to know what is expected of them, so setting clear expectations at the beginning will aid in keeping everyone — and the improvement project — on track. There will likely be questions along the way, but beyond answering them, do your best to relinquish control, refrain from hovering, and give the teams autonomy to act. Remember, their way may be different from yours, but as long as they are following your initial guidelines and keeping patient interests in mind, that’s okay!

Have teams collect relevant QI data.

There’s no better way to empower your staff than letting them do the work. Of course, as a leader, you must first train, educate, and develop your staff. This means guiding them in the right direction and sharing your knowledge such as how to collect data for a QI study. For instance, if a team is doing a QI study on patient wait times, members will need to know how to run the following data:  

  • Patient check-in times
  • Operating room entry times
  • Surgery start times
  • Surgery stop times
  • Discharge times

Once your staff has gathered the relevant information, let them be creative and decide how they will present the data. Graphs, Excel spreadsheets, and tables are great options for disseminating the data in an easily digestible format.

Having staff collect data and depict it has several benefits. First, it gets them involved and feel like they are part of a team. Second, it teaches them how to run reports and get creative. And finally, it provides valuable information that may stimulate them to make improvements in their daily tasks and patient interactions.  

Encourage teams to present their data.

Presenting in front of a group is scary for many. Yet, as a leader, you can help your staff overcome this fear and grow into great leaders themselves. Since they are well-versed on their study topic and part of a larger team, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to present their findings. Also helpful is the fact that they are presenting in front of their peers, making it a more supportive, non-judgmental environment. Peers presenting to peers not only empowers your participating staff, but it inspires others to get involved in the QI process. This creates that collective effort you’re aiming for to produce better patient services and care in the ASC.

Put into Practice

The stage is now set. Next, engage staff and pick a QI topic for study. Here are some great topics:

1. Patient wait times
2. Turnover times
3. Patient allergies (reactions documented)
4. Patient satisfaction
5. Time out

Involving staff will make them feel empowered and foster their growth, all while helping your ASC make valuable quality improvements. A win-win.

NEED ASSISTANCE WITH QUALITY IMPROVEMENT? Login to eSupport where numerous QI samples are available. If you are not an eSupport member, please visit the Progressive Surgical Solutions website and request a free demo.


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