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Quality in Healthcare
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Why Quality?

Healthcare Quality Tools

Quality tools help people understand and improve processes. There are many different tools, and the skill of quality professionals lies in their ability to take an application from one field or industry and apply it, or adapt it, to specific situations in other fields.

If you're new to applying quality techniques in healthcare, don’t be scared off by the vast number of tools available, or the fact that the tools have roots in fields other than healthcare.

Take a look at the tools listed below, “test-drive” a couple, and soon you’ll begin discovering how to apply them to your unique situation.

Seven Tools of Quality Improvement

The basic “seven tools of quality improvement” help organizations generate ideas; analyze, develop, and evaluate processes; and collect data.

  1. Flowchart/process map—Graphical tools for process understanding. A flowchart creates a map of the steps in a process, and documents the inputs and outputs for each step.
  2. Check sheet—A simple data-recording device, custom-designed by the user to allow for easy data collection and interpretation.
  3. Cause-effect diagram—A tool for analyzing a process by illustrating the main causes and sub-causes leading to an effect (or symptom). Also called an "Ishikawa diagram" after its inventor, Kaoru Ishikawa, and the "fishbone diagram," because the complete diagram resembles a fish skeleton.
  4. Pareto chart—A graphic tool for ranking causes from most significant to least significant. It’s named for economist Vilfredo Pareto, who said most effects come from relatively few causes: that is, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the possible causes.
  5. Histogram—A graphical depiction of variation in a set of data. A histogram lets people see patterns that are difficult to detect in a simple table of numbers.
  6. Control chart—A chart with upper and lower control limits on which values for a series of samples are plotted. The chart frequently includes a central line to help detect a trend of plotted values toward either control limit.
  7. Scatter diagrams—A graphic technique for analyzing the relationship between two variables. Two sets of data are plotted as dots on a graph: Patterns in how the dots are dispersed can help determine if the variables are related.

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