What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve the quality of the Company and care delivered by the Company
Takes into account the needs of Customers, Suppliers and Stakeholders, and may involve them in improvement activities
Looks at improvements in a systematic way to improve quality over time
Ranges in scale from smaller programs to significant strategic initiatives.
What is the relationship between continuous improvement and quality assurance? Quality assurance is about systems and processes that deliver a consistent quality of care and the Company. Continuous improvement moves beyond quality assurance to find ways of lifting the quality of the Company delivered.
What are the principles of continuous improvement? Whatever approach is used, the following framework helps to drive and support the process:
Customers, Suppliers and Stakeholders
Strategic planning and implementation
Regular monitoring and evaluation.
A culture of continuous improvement ensures a Company that is responsive to change and can continually develop a quality service that is of value to Customers, Suppliers and Stakeholders.
A sound continuous improvement program can demonstrate:
Baseline – the current situation the Company is trying to change
Planned improvements and the expected benefit to the Company
Monitoring – systems to monitor a new process or activity during its implementation
Evaluation – systems to monitor a process or activity once it has been implemented, which should help ensure its sustainability and capture the actual improvements.
Continuous improvement processes help the Company resolve problems and deliver high quality care and the Company to Customers, Suppliers and Stakeholders.
How can the Company implement improvements in a structured manner?
Plan the improvement Continuous improvement means taking a systematic and planned approach to improving quality including:
Analysing complaints trends and themes
Researching possible solutions at the service level
Planning and prioritising improvement activities
Listening to suggestions from Customers, Suppliers and Stakeholders
Monitoring and evaluating new solutions, processes and improvements.
Improvements that are made in response to problems are not planned continuous improvement.
Implement the improvement
The Company should monitor new processes and activities to make sure the change is not causing problems. This will allow the Company to make modifications to an activity or process as required and ensure positive results for Customers, Suppliers and Stakeholders.
Relevant Stakeholders should be involved in the implementation, including through keeping them informed as appropriate. Staff should be supported through education and training, and updated information in policies and procedures.
Evaluate success of the improvement activity
Evaluating the effectiveness of a new activity or process is an important step.
Ensure all components of the activity have been closed-off, for instance, updating of any policies and procedures, and seeking Stakeholder and staff input. Having a structured approach to the evaluation of continuous improvement can also provide guidance for future improvement activities.
Decide next steps
There are at least two possible situations in this step:
1. If the improvement activity has been successful you can close the loop, or
2. The improvement activity has been unsuccessful or partially successful and staff need to make amendments and start a new cycle of planning, implementing, evaluating and deciding.
Why should the Company keep track of their improvement activities?
Keeping track of improvement activities ensures a strategic approach to continuous improvement, including prioritisation of activities. It also allows the Company to reflect back on what worked well, and what didn’t. A plan for continuous improvement should include clear information on:
The expected outcome/s to which it relates
The planned action/s
Planned completion date.