We recently had an interesting conversation with a newly minted director of quality improvement in a regional hospital. The position is new, but she has years of experience implementing continuous quality improvement (CQI) programs. The first thing she realized that she needed was CQI software to support the initiative. She made the request for budget to the CFO who told her that fortunately, the hospital already had project management software and that she was free to use it to manage improvement projects.
This is a common response. Many executives think that CQI software simply tracks projects, assignments, due dates, and status updates. In that case, it makes sense to use the general project management software you already have. Heck, maybe even a spreadsheet will do.
Our friend at the hospital was able to convince the CFO that a CQI platform is much more than project management. Sure, it has all of the features and benefits of digital project management, but software built for the purpose of sustaining, spreading, and accelerating improvement does so much more. Here are the unique advantages of CQI software that eventually won him over and secured her budget.
Solid Foundation for Improvement
Embracing the principles of continuous quality improvement is the first step on the road to reduced waste, fewer errors, and happier customers, but it requires structure in order to succeed. CQI software provides the foundation for improvement by giving every person in the organization the ability to document opportunities for improvement and make sure that the best ideas get implemented. A CQI platform sets the stage for a consistent, repeatable approach to improvement. Alerts and notifications keep work moving and help managers step in when progress slows down. Reporting capabilities give executives the ability to keep tabs on quality improvement work and predict future results.
Even in the most well-run organizations, functional silos evolve and ideas often remain trapped within departments or teams. But the points in a process that represent the handoff of work or customers from one team to another are the most common moments when quality issues and waste appear. Impactful improvement often requires the perspectives, capabilities, and effort of people in different teams, departments, or even locations.
Robust Knowledge Repository
There are a number of benefits to creating an archive of all CQI related work. With one platform for storing information, there is one version of the truth and no need to try to recreate the past with random Office files and email. All relevant information and artifacts like value stream maps, diagrams, photos, and project charters are centrally located and available to anyone who needs them. Teams can review past improvement projects to find solutions to current problems and to avoid approaches that lead to dead ends. New additions to the team can quickly become up to speed and start contributing to improvement efforts right away.
Without employee engagement in your CQI program, you don’t have a CQI program. Employees who are willing to exert discretionary effort and who are emotionally invested make all the difference and determine the results. CQI software helps promote engagement by providing an easy way for each employee from the C-suite to the front lines to engage in improvement and suggest innovative ideas for ensuring excellence. The best solutions support both accountability and recognition with built-in features like improvement broadcasting and goal alignment. Implementing a dedicated CQI software solution shows the organization that quality improvement is a high priority of leadership and that investment will be made to support it. Although it takes a lot more than software to achieve a culture that puts quality first, implementing such a solution is a good start.
The most effective way to get executives and employees alike excited about quality improvement is to measure and document the results. When people are able to quantify improvement work as it relates to key business objectives, the investment becomes a no brainer. With CQI software you can talk about results in terms of reduced defects, improved customer satisfaction scores, lower costs, less rework, and faster processing times. In a hospital setting, this might translate to fewer diagnostic errors, happier patients, less supply waste, more efficient staffing, and shorter wait times.
These are the reasons that our healthcare client was able to tip the scale in favor of an investment in CQI software despite her CFO's original misunderstanding of the need. These advantages aren’t specific to hospitals, of course. Organizations of all types and sizes have watched CQI technology amplify and accelerate quality improvement initiatives.