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By guest blogger Mikayla St. Clair

The medical sector improves and saves lives daily, and therefore healthcare should be of the highest quality. Improving the quality of the UK’s medical industry is about making it safe, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centred. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but first we need to understand what is quality control?

Quality control is the system used to maintain standards and quality of health care services. It is more essential now than ever before due to the emergence of new diseases, high medical costs and rapidly increasing populations. Thus, it is evident that quality control must focus on the needs of the patients.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), high-quality healthcare has the following dimensions:

Patient safety: The delivery of care to individuals in a way that avoids harm and risk to their safety.

Patient experience: The treatment given to an individual should be a positive experience. This means the individual should be treated with respect, compassion and dignity.

Clinical effectiveness: Healthcare treatment provided should prove clinically effective to improve the patient’s health.

What is Quality Improvement?

Quality improvement involves systematic and formal procedures to improve healthcare standards. Quality improvement uses tools which focus on:

  • Understanding the patient pathway.
  • Analysing the demand capacity of the healthcare industry.
  • Choosing techniques to bring about clinical engagement and patient participation.
  • Measuring and evaluating the impact of a change in the medical industry.

Quality Improvement Methods

Let’s look at some of the methods of improving quality.

Statistical Process Control

This technique of quality improvement uses statistics to monitor and control healthcare processes, ensuring they operate at their full potential. At full potential, the required quality will be maintained and waste will be minimal. This method involves the use of control charts that show boundaries for acceptable variations.

Statistical process control collects data over time to show the degree of variation of a process from its control limit to detect poor performance and see where improvements are needed.

Healthcare providers should have evidence of a statistical process control, especially when there are significant changes to healthcare processes, such as staffing or environmental issues.

Six Sigma

This systematic approach analyses healthcare systems to eliminate waste, improve the flow in the value stream and redirect resources towards more improved and efficient healthcare. Six sigma uses the following five-phase framework:

Define: Specify the patient group, outline the target process and set goals.

Measure: Decide parameters to be quantified and the best method of measuring them. Collect baseline data and measure it after changes have been made.

Analyse: Identify the variation between actual performance and goals. Determine the causes of these variations and rank improvement opportunities.

Improve: Come up with potential solutions which are easy to implement.

Control: Unveil a solution monitoring plan and observe implemented improvements if they are successful

The six sigma approach can help to eliminate holding excess inventory, unnecessary staff movement, reduce patient waiting times and cut excess transportation.

Clinical Audit

A clinical audit is a technique of quality improvement used to check if quality care meets the defined standards. It also looks to address anything that’s underperforming. This method is most effective in driving clinical care improvements and ensures compliance with clinical standards.

A clinical audit involves designing the clinical audit pro forma, which has the proven standards and a subsequent review of healthcare data such as health records. Data from the pro forma is collected over a given time frame and analysed. Identification of shortfalls against standards calls for improvement through action planning. There should be repeated cycles of data collection and analysis to monitor change.

Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)

This approach is used to introduce and test potential quality improvements and enhance them on a small scale. This method is most effective when a healthcare process or system needs changing or is being introduced. PDSA involves:

Plan: Identify systems or processes that require changes or development.

Do: Implementation of the processes for a specific time-frame on a small scale so that it has few stakeholders.

Study: The implemented processes or systems are evaluated.

Act: The processes are adjusted.

Healthcare providers involve stakeholders in all the four stages of the PDSA cycle. This enables them to engage with proposed changes and allows for adjustment where there are barriers.

Communication Tools

This method of quality improvement is used to improve the quality of care through a structured exchange of essential information. A structured tool enhances communications between healthcare providers and patients.

Communication tools include patient healthcare records, patient information leaflets and structured patient consultations.

An example of a structured communication aid is the situation-background-assessment-recommendation (SBAR) tool. It shapes communication at any stage of a patient’s journey and enables healthcare providers to make medical recommendations based on the patient’s medical background and current situation.


Mikayla St. Clair is a Public Relations Specialist for Metrology Parts. She loves to write informative articles and share her knowledge with the readers.

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