What is PDSA?

Learn what PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) means, when it’s used, what it’s used for, and the main components of the PDSA framework so you can start applying it in your workplace.

a startup team conducting PDSA

What is PDSA?

PDSA, or Plan Do Study Act, is a framework used to test change within an organization. As the name suggests, the PDSA method allows teams to plan, apply, and study the effects of that change and how to improve upon it, and then apply the new changes again. While many people go through this process when applying any type of change, not many are familiar with the actual concept.

Currently, the PDSA worksheet is most widely used in healthcare organizations. However, it can apply to just about any type of change out there, whether a personal change or a shift in the way your organization approaches different tasks. Typically, PDSA is used to quickly evaluate changes that have already been tested on a small scale. From there, the organization can find lapses in the changes and start making improvements to the implementation or adoption of the change.

What is It Used For?

As mentioned earlier, the most common application for PDSA is in the medical field to test medical literacy. However, the worksheet is very flexible, so it can also apply to any other type of change you may want to apply. In fact, the PDSA worksheet works well for both organizational and personal changes, which is why it’s so widely used in various industries.

The entire goal of the PDSA worksheet is to gain insights and opinions on whether or not a change is working. It’s important to only apply changes in an organization that benefits the team or improve safety and productivity. The PSDA worksheet is a great tool for gauging these changes and finding out the ways that you can further improve upon them.

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What is the Difference Between PDSA and PDCA?

The primary difference between PDSA and PDCA is “study” vs. “check.” In a PDSA worksheet, you have to plan, do, study, and act. But with a PDCA worksheet, you don’t study; instead, you check. While this is a subtle and almost arbitrary difference, it has huge implications when being used to gauge organizational change.

Generally, the PDCA framework is used for any organization looking to gauge the effectiveness of current processes or changes that are being implemented within an organization. It works very similarly to the PDSA method and allows you to get a quick and accurate view of how effective your changes or processes are.

On the flip side, PDSA connotes a more systematic approach to checking the changes. When you “study” a change, there are more considerations that you need to keep in mind. Since this allows for a more comprehensive view of the changes, this is the method that’s more commonly used in healthcare situations.

Components of PDSA

Stages of PDSA

Stages of PDSA

While the PDSA cycle is very simple and straightforward by design, it’s still very important to learn about all the different components in full detail. That way, it allows you more easily implement the specific changes and find the best ways to do so.


This is the first phase of the PDSA process. It involves you and the team trying to predict what will happen, when it will happen, and why it will happen. This gives you a rough idea of everything that will go down when you implement a change and allows you to visualize some of the things to expect when you implement the change.


This phase includes actually carrying out the plan that you and the team created during the first phase of PDSA. Aside from implementing changes according to the plan, it’s also very important that you gather as much data on the changes as possible, with photo and video documentation if possible.

When implementing a change, it’s very important to cover all bases, including any surprises or issues that may pop up along the way.


The next step involves analyzing the entire test cycle and interpreting all the data you have gathered along the way. It’s important to compare your results to the original plans and predictions you made on what will happen when you implement the change.

From there, you can start picking out some of the things you could have done better and further improvements you can make as well. However, keep in mind that all of this has to be based on the information that you have gathered.


The last phase involves determining any adjustments you have to make to the change that you want to implement. Typically, you will have to go through another testing cycle to see if these adjustments yield the desired results. And once you go through the PDSA worksheet and everything goes to plan, you’re ready to implement the change throughout the entire organization.

When to Use the PDSA Framework?

PDSA’s best application is for testing changes in a health organization before widespread implementation. This allows you to find any potential issues or unforeseen circumstances that may come about as a result of the change and apply preemptive measures to ensure the smoothest possible adoption.

That said, while the PDSA worksheet and process are best used in healthcare organizations, they can also work for just about any industry or change that you wish to implement. If you want to get a comprehensive and accurate view of a change before implementing it in an organization, the PDSA worksheet is a great approach for you.

FAQs about PDSA

Yes, PDSA can be seen as a quality improvement tool and method that organizations can use before adopting a change. While it’s not the only aspect of quality improvement, the PDSA worksheet is one of the most useful and efficient tools you can have for gauging changes.

Since PDSA aims to help organizations gauge a change before implementing it, it falls under Lean, Six Sigma, and Kaizen. Organizations can use this framework for strategizing and carrying out process modifications under any of the business process improvement tools listed above.

A PDSA template or document is basically a reference you can use when going through the PDSA process. It allows you to fill up the information as you inspect, plan, or implement changes to allow for easier recording and gathering of data.

The most common industry that uses PDSA is the healthcare industry, as the process allows them to take a comprehensive look at the changes and find any potential issues before implementation. That said, any industry looking to apply a change in their facilities or processes may also use PDSA.

Leon Altomonte
Article by
Leon Altomonte
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.