Improvement methods

Improvement methods represents the knowledge base and the methods that underpin how patient safety can be improved.

All aspects of patient safety, from measurement and management to regulation and training, focus on one thing: improvement. Improving patient safety is the ultimate objective of all these activities. A growing body of knowledge is being developed that explains and underpins patient safety improvement. This spans from a wide range of practical methods and tools through to detailed analyses and theories of what works and why.

Patient safety improvement is just one aspect of the broader aim within healthcare to improve quality on a wide scale. There is a range of improvement methods and tools which support this, and have been widely used and studied.

Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA)

One such method is using PDSA cycles, in which small and incremental changes are made to improve systems and practices of care through many cycles of change. PDSA is widely used as a method to improve patient safety. 

Statistical Process Control

Improvement approaches also include methods of Statistical Process Control, allowing ongoing measurement and tracking of improvement interventions, as well as models of lean production that have been applied from other industries such as manufacturing and supply chain management.

These methods each have strengths and limitations when applied to various clinical contexts, and care must be taken when considering which to use and how to apply them. 

A growing body of knowledge

Increasingly, rigorous and sophisticated scientific research is being conducted on both safety improvement programmes and interventions, and on the underlying social, psychological and organisational processes that support safety improvement.

Evaluations of large scale safety improvement programmes provide powerful and challenging insights into the successes of different safety improvement activities, and the limitations and challenges they face. These improvement methods provides a growing body of knowledge that helps to both explain – and improve – safety improvement.

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