Quality Improvement

Discover what quality improvement is and its importance, check out examples, and learn how quality improvement can bring organizations to the next level.

employees discussing quality improvement

Published 23 Sep 2022

What is Quality Improvement?

Quality improvement or QI is a set of continuous actions that allow organizations to improve the quality of their services and products. The term is widely used in the healthcare industry to describe the system of actions a healthcare organization can use to improve their healthcare services and the overall health of their patient groups

Quality improvement is a framework that organizations may use to elevate their services or products to increase customer satisfaction. Through quality improvement, organizations can optimize processes and structures to take positive steps towards improving the customer or patient experience.

Structures may be both concrete and abstract things. For example, structures could refer to the technology, tools, and machines that organizations use but may also refer to the organization’s culture and mindset.

Example

While quality improvement applies to all industries, it’s most widely used in the medical field. A clear-cut example of using quality improvement in the medical industry is by only offering blood transfusions to patients who absolutely need the treatment. This makes it easier for patients needing blood while streamlining the process for the entire organization.

Organizations have the freedom to construct their own quality improvement framework. This is why examples can vary across different industries. However, any set of actions taken to improve the quality of service or product is an example of quality improvement and how it’s used in the workplace.

Importance of Quality Improvement

Quality improvement looks different for every organization. However, quality improvement is crucial for organizations for a number of reasons. These include:

Establishing Quality Culture

Quality improvement strategies need to be integrated with the overall work culture and attitudes within an organization. The main purpose of quality improvement is to establish a culture wherein everyone in the organization is dedicated to improving the products or services they offer however they can.

Quality improvement requires dedicated QI teams to help establish the workplace culture and environment. These teams are responsible for managing any QI aspect of an organization and ensuring everything goes according to plan.

Data Collection and Analysis

Quality improvement allows organizations to collect valuable data. In establishing a proper framework, it’s important to have tangible and definite data sets upon which to base the organization’s goals and the means of achieving them. 

Moreover, this data can also be valuable for a number of other reasons and can be applied elsewhere.

Finding Areas of Improvement

Quality improvement isn’t a singular strategy that companies employ for a quarter and then let go of afterward. Instead, it is a constant and consistent process of finding ways to elevate a company’s services or products to the next level. 

So, a key aspect of quality improvement is the constant search for improvement areas and determining how organizations can address these issues.

Benefits

Developing a culture of quality in a workplace is very valuable. One of the key benefits of quality improvement, whether done in the medical, manufacturing, or any other industry, is enhancing the quality of products and services provided to customers. It shows that quality improvement is an integral part of modern organizations. 

With that said, the benefits of quality improvement don’t end there. Other benefits that organizations may receive by employing a quality improvement strategy include:

  • Cost and waste reduction
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Easier to pinpoint person/s accountable for certain issues
  • Streamlined avenue to find improvement areas and develop initiatives around them
  • Higher satisfaction rates due to higher-quality products

Quality improvement initiatives are invaluable in modern organizations. They offer tons of benefits, which is why various industries and companies are employing their own form of quality improvement.

Quality Improvement Models

Organizations can use multiple models and approaches when building quality improvement strategies. Below are some of the most common and widely-used models for quality improvement throughout different industries.

Lean

Lean manufacturing is a philosophy widely used in manufacturing, but it’s also applicable in other industries. This model traces its roots back to Toyota in the 1960s when the company tried to find ways to improve efficiency and productivity. 

Lean manufacturing focuses on reducing waste and ensuring that every task or job adds value to the company, which is why it’s a popular model for quality improvement. This can also refer to Lean process improvement.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is another method of improvement focused on reducing waste. It’s similar to lean manufacturing, but the two concepts share a fair amount of differences. 

This is a data and statistics-driven approach to quality improvement, excellent at gathering concrete data upon which the quality improvement can be based.

Model for Improvement

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has its own model for improvement. This is specifically designed for the healthcare industry and combines Total Quality Management and Rapid Cycle Improvement. This approach tests interventions and actions on a smaller scale through Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles.

Applications

Quality improvement is widely used in the healthcare industry. However, this concept applies to many different industries and organizations. Some of the industries that utilize quality improvement the most include:

Healthcare

As mentioned earlier, quality improvement is very prevalent in the healthcare industry. In the industry, organizations are always striving to improve the patient experience and ensure that they can provide everyone with the medical services they need.

Education

Education is the backbone of society. This is why educational institutions are now using quality improvement models like Six Sigma to ensure they teach students properly and have the right tools to do the job. 

Administrators for both higher education and K-12 institutions strive to improve quality, which is why it’s easy to find institutions that employ their own quality improvement strategies.

Manufacturing

A lack of quality products can spell disaster for manufacturers. Product defects can drive returns and recalls and cause shipping delays. These things diminish the customer experience and cause customers to avoid a certain brand. So, to ensure that their products consistently surpass quality standards, manufacturers employ various quality improvement strategies to get to the heart of their issues.

Whenever manufacturers improve their products’ processes and quality, they receive direct benefits. For example, they can sell and deliver more products by eliminating waste and reducing the time it takes to accomplish a process. And by ensuring that everything is high-quality, they reduce returns and boost customer satisfaction rates.

SafetyCulture staff writer

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.

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.