Developing a quality-focused culture in a health system requires changing a range of behaviors in addition to adopting tools designed to improve quality.
Many health care organizations employ quality-improvement principles to reduce variation, improve efficiency, and enhance patient safety. In my organization, we have embraced Lean Six Sigma. One member of our department has obtained black belt status, and others are almost there. We have ongoing Kaizen events and other activities to isolate processes for improvements. We have even recognized the need to embed this in the training of our pharmacy residents, requiring them to obtain their yellow belt by the end of their residency and requiring our health-system pharmacy administration residents to lead a Kaizen.
However, my sense of accomplishment was tempered as I read an article in the April 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review titled “Creating a Culture of Quality.” Its authors, Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan Kurey, write that 60% of employees work in an environment that does not support a culture of quality. While this conclusion was not based on data from health care delivery organizations, I wondered how different the results would be if it were. While I can speak from an administrator’s perspective on what we do in our department, would the front-line employees say the same thing? Do they understand the methods our organization has employed, and do they believe we are focusing on improving the most essential items? It is also interesting to note that the authors of the Harvard Business Review article found that there was no correlation between use of quality tools and creating the desired culture. Thus, in order to produce an organization focused on quality, more is needed than just a system.
The authors recommend 4 strategies for developing a quality-focused culture, which require changes in other behaviors and actions in addition to adopting tools. They are:
What does this mean for health-system pharmacy? Here are some strategies that one can employ to develop a culture focused on quality or assess whether such a culture already exists in an organization.
I believe that emphasizing quality has to be one of the bedrocks of how we practice pharmacy. If you are not either actively involved in projects designed to improve quality or encouraging your employees to improve quality, then patient care will suffer. Quality is the current focus of health care delivery. Let’s lead by becoming known as the department that fully embraces quality in order to have the safest and most efficient processes in place for patient care.
I would appreciate any insights you might have on this perspective. You can let me know what you think by email at email@example.com.