Every day, the social services sector continues its dramatic shift towards an outcomes-based environment. Organizations are adapting evidence-based models to satisfy funders’ performance and reporting requirements, as well as to ensure that their programs are operating optimally. By focusing on improving the quality of one’s programs, and by using the right continuous quality improvement tools, your organization can ensure continued access to funding sources as well as better service for your clients and constituents.
Keep reading to find out how your organization can benefit from using continuous quality improvement tools.
Defining Continuous Quality Improvement
Continuous quality improvement is a process by which an organization can strive to improve its business processes and outcomes through monitoring and analyzing data. As our capacity to handle data has improved drastically thanks to technology, organizations can make changes to their operating procedures that can drastically improve performance in many cases.
However, careful management of this process is a must. To ensure proper integration of data and reporting into the organization’s day-to-day operations, having a good plan and the right tools are essential.
What Are Continuous Quality Improvement Tools?
Continuous quality improvement tools are any tools that serve the quality improvement process. In general, this term refers to technology such as outcomes management software. This term can also involve statistical tools which are used to analyze data, as well as any tools required in the data collection process.
The Continuous Quality Improvement Cycle
As the name suggestions, the continuous quality improvement process resembles a cycle much more than a straight line. Obviously, this will vary somewhat depending on your organization’s mission, goals and needs, but the following steps should help you get organized and offer ideas for the continuous quality improvement tools you will need during each phase.
- Planning – The most important part of any change process in your organization is to first consult with your organization’s mission. Sometimes when using this, or a similar process, exciting new data can cause individuals and organizations to begin expanding in a new direction. However, it is important to make sure that the data is being used in conjunction with your organization’s stated mission, lest you become a victim to the dreaded mission creep.On a more tactical level, checklists and flow charts are continuous quality improvement tools that can be utilized at this stage in order to prepare and ensure that no critical considerations are left out of your organization’s data collection process. In this phase, your organization may also want to consider how often it will aim to complete this cycle.
- Data Collection – The next step, of course, is to begin collecting data in order to affirm or reject any hypotheses you’ve established in the first phase. An outcomes management software tool, such as Social Solutions ETO software can be a tremendous help in this and other phases of the process. Having a good technology solution is one continuous quality improvement tool that your organization can’t stand to lose.
- Data Analysis – Once the data has been collected, it’s time to analyze it. This is where the continuous quality improvement tools from both of the first two steps will come in handy. Again, don’t let the data drive you away from the core goal or mission of your organization.
- Implementation – Once your data has been collected and assessed, it’s time to put the plan into action and actually take practical steps towards improving your programs or services. While this is the part that everyone tends to think of in the quality improvement process, it’s actually the smallest piece of the endeavor, and should theoretically take the least time.
- Process Analysis – Before beginning the cycle again, it’s important to stop and evaluate the quality improvement process. Were there any places in the process where additional tools would have been helpful? Anything that could be done better next time to make it go more smoothly? It’s important to stop and take stock of these issues each time the process is conducted.
As you can see, with the proper system and tools in place, this process can help your organization improve its programs and services and hopefully achieve its ultimate goal.