Improvement is Now Mainstream in Healthcare

A leading healthcare improvement organization has declared that we have reached a watershed moment in efforts to improve healthcare.

            Don’t look for any formal announcement on this – there isn’t one. But I came across just such a declaration in the description of a new workshop being offered by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

            In April, IHI is offering a program called “Executing Change to Achieve World-Class Performance.” The fact that they are presenting such a program is certainly not remarkable; these kinds of events are offered all the time.

            What interests me is what IHI has chosen to say on the Web page for the event:


            In recent years, quality improvement in health care has progressed from a fringe philosophy to mainstream movement. Nearly all care delivery organizations are participating in some quality improvement, and many or most organizations can now reach results on a focused project.


            Is that true? I hope so.

            And I give credit to IHI for not only focusing on this area but also for trying to develop a relevant workshop. And the workshop is not just a two-day event, but part of a three-month “collaborative learning initiative” that will also involve individual coaching, phone calls and video conferences.

            It’s hard to say whether the event will truly be of value. First, as lean believers know, improvement is something you focus on continuously, not just for three months – though in fairness to IHI, it says the goal of the program is to “create a roadmap for establishing the capability to achieve unprecedented system results through well-organized execution of system changes.”

            (Yes, I know, it sounds like the grandiose statements of many consultants, but I’ll assume their hearts are pure.)

            Second, I’m not clear on exactly what type of framework for execution is being taught. In the description, the word lean is not mentioned. What it says is:


            IHI launched an R&D project to gather data on world-class approaches for execution used by organizations inside and outside of health care. Interviews were conducted with leaders from Caterpillar, Milliken, DuPont, Baldrige-winner OMI, and SRF from India (one of the few winners of the Deming Prize outside of Japan). Through its programs and alliances, IHI also had opportunities to observe, interview and learn from top-notch health care organizations such as Ascension Health, the Bellin Health System, HealthPartners, OSF, the health system of Jonkoping County in Sweden, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Each of these organizations contributed important insights on executing change when world-class performance at the system level is the goal.


            IHI apparently intends to offer a small smorgasbord of lessons learned from these organizations. I question whether that’s the best approach, but if it helps at least some attendees begin an improvement journey, then it probably won’t be all bad. Let’s hope for the best.


1 comment:

Ralph Bernstein said...

4/3/2007 12:27:31 PM
Re: Improvement is Now Mainstream in Healthcare
By: dcbliss

IHI has become a leader in the healthcare improvement field since the successful and recently completed "100,000 Lives" campaign. Though they rarely use the word "lean", many of their initiatives are inspired by the continuous improvement philosophy. Steven Spear, who has written two key articles for the HBR (Decoding the DNA.. and Fixing Health Care..) is a fellow of IHI.