Continuously Improving Primary Care.

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The Joint Commission journal on quality improvement, Vol: 20, Issue: 3, Page: 120-126

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Young, Mark J, MD; Ward, Richard, MD, MBA; McCarthy, Bruce D, MD, MPH
Female; Health Services Accessibility; Humans; Interdepartmental Relations; Internal Medicine; Leadership; Management Quality Circles; Medical Staff; Hospital; Michigan; Multi-Institutional Systems; Organizational Innovation; Outpatient Clinics; Papanicolaou Test; Pilot Projects; Primary Health Care; Total Quality Management; Vaginal Smears; Medical Sciences; Medicine and Health Sciences
article description
BACKGROUND: This article describes efforts to understand and improve the daily work processes of primary care within the Henry Ford Health System, where continuous quality improvement (CQI) has been a key business strategy since 1988. We began a pilot project in 1990 that attempted to accelerate the implementation of continuous improvement in primary care. The clinical site was the general internal medicine (GIM) ambulatory clinic, which has 50,000 patient visits annually.STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: For four key elements--physicians as leaders, prevention and primary care, patient access, and innovation and team work--we planned and implemented continuous improvement based on three questions: What were we trying to accomplish? What can we change that would lead to an improvement? How would we know a change is an improvement?EXAMPLE: Prevention and Primary Care. In our primary care setting, an appropriate clinical process to improve would include preventive medicine, specifically Pap-smear performance. In our partnership with the department of obstetrics/gynecology, GIM physicians wanted to improve the rate of adequate Pap smears. To reduce variation in the rates with which physicians collected specimens that were adequate for cytologic examination, the team recommended use of a specific tool, a cervi-brush, which should be more effective in producing adequate specimens. As cervi-brush use increased, rates of inadequate Pap smears dropped from 20%-25% in 1989 to less than 10% for the first six months of 1991.CONCLUSIONS: By focusing attention and resources on a limited number of improvement teams, our initial success built enthusiasm and commitment within GIM and accelerated changes that were incorporated into strategic planning for the Henry Ford Health System as a whole.