Planning for a Pandemic

Quality tools and techniques key to designing an effective response, health group advises

Ramping up for another H1N1 flu outbreak this fall, a national health organization is encouraging health agencies to use quality improvement methods and tools to review current policies and procedures and to better prepare for public health emergencies.

The Public Health Foundation (PHF), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., helps local and state health agencies improve performance, and is promoting the use of quality techniques—such as the five whys technique, rapid-cycle plan-do-check-act and force field analysis—for public health agencies to analyze and improve pandemic flu plans.

"The human and business impacts of H1N1 in the coming months in local jurisdictions are uncertain," according to a report prepared by the PHF. "We may face a situation that is no worse than the typical fall/winter flu season. We could also experience a more serious situation, with increased levels of severity of illness.

"In either event, the systemic application of quality improvement strategies will result in a better prepared public health community."

Much of the report was based on a panel discussion held during ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement in May in Minneapolis. There, Ron Bialek, PHF’s executive director; Kim McCoy, a principal planning specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health; and William Riley, associate division head of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, offered suggestions on how quality methods and tools could strengthen state and local flu plans.

The report provides brief examples of quality tools used to review public health agency plans and to prepare for large-scale responses to health emergencies.

For instance, the five whys technique can determine a root cause for a school district that was not reporting any H1N1 cases last year. Building a flow chart can help improve the value stream in an emergency operations center or streamline how medications are distributed.

"The easy part in preparing for the fall flu season is recognizing that lessons learned from the H1N1 outbreak need to be applied," the report says. "The more difficult part is developing an effective process to understand the reasons, or root causes, contributing to [public agencies’] successes and challenges. Using quality improvement methods and tools … will lead to better prepared communities and more successful responses to the fall 2009 flu season."

To view the full report, visit www.phf.org.


Report: Graduates With Engineering, Statistics Degrees Have Easier Time Finding Employment

College students who major in engineering or statistics have a better chance of landing a job upon graduation than graduates with other degrees, according to a recent report.

Using data and analysis taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank, SmartMoney magazine recently ranked the top five college majors that are closely linked to growing industries.

For example, by 2020, U.S. manufacturers will need as many as 10 million new skilled workers, including mechanical and software engineers, the Milken Institute reported earlier this year. Statistics experts are always sought after by companies in virtually any sector, such as the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and by investors on Wall Street, the report said.

Along with engineering and statistics, the other majors rounding out the top five were environmental studies, finance and life sciences.


New Center to Tackle Patient Safety Breakdowns

In an effort to use new and different methods to uncover causes of and to put a stop to dangerous and often deadly breakdowns in patient care, the Joint Commission—a nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies more than 16,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States—has launched the Center for Transforming Healthcare.

The center will team up with top hospitals and health systems across the United States to tackle problems that plague the country’s healthcare system.

For its first initiative, the center focused on hand-washing failures, which contribute to infections that kill close to 100,000 Americans each year and cost U.S. hospitals $4 billion to $29 billion annually to fight. Hospital-acquired infections are one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

The center teamed with eight hospitals and health systems nationwide for the project, which it tackled by digging deep to find out where the breakdowns took place so targeted solutions could be created for now and the future. By consistently using the center’s measurement methods and process improvement tools—such as lean, Six Sigma and change management—the hospitals found, on average, caregivers washed their hands less than 50% of the time.

The center hopes these efforts will yield new methods to systemically measure the magnitude of the problems, pinpoint the causes and find lasting solutions, said Mark R. Chassin, M.D., president of the Joint Commission. From there, the Joint Commission will spread the use of these tools and inventions to tens of thousands of hospitals and health systems it accredits.

"The center aims to solve the most difficult and pressing quality and safety problems that plague American healthcare," Chassin said.

Visit www.centerfortransforminghealthcare.org for more information about the center and to learn about its next project.

—Nicole Adrian, contributing editor

Capitol Q

ASQ Hosts Forum on Quality Healthcare for House Caucus

ASQ convened a healthcare quality forum last month for members of the House of Representatives’ 21st Century Healthcare Caucus. A panel of speakers discussed healthcare IT and the importance of proper preparation to ensure successful implementation of such technologies.

Those who appeared before the caucus included: Joseph A. Fortuna, chair-elect of the ASQ Healthcare Division; Paloma Hernandez, president and CEO of Urban Health Plan, Bronx, NY; Robert Burney, director of quality improvement with the medical department at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.; Christopher J. DeFlitch, chief medical information officer at Penn State Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA; and Doug Sears, director of performance improvement/knowledge transfer at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, SC.

The caucus is composed of 47 members of the House of Representatives who convene to discuss healthcare policy issues. Congressmen Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) are co-chairs of the caucus.

Updates from the proceedings can be found this month in ASQ’s Advocacy Room at www.asq.org/advocacy/index.html.

Capitol Q is a regular Keeping Current feature that highlights ASQ’s advocacy efforts with government leaders.


THE LATEST DRAFT of the social responsibility standard is available for review and comment. The Draft International Standard of ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility, was released last month, and it can be found at the Standards Central corner of ASQ's website at www.asq.org/knowledge-center/standards/index.html. Public comment is due Dec. 14.

WORLD QUALITY DAY will be celebrated Nov. 12 to promote awareness of quality around the world and reinforce quality, innovation and sustainability as the foundations of an organization. The Chartered Quality Institute is organizaing the event. For more information, visit www.thecqi.org/community/world-quality-day.

THE QUALITY PERFORMANCE of cellular phone calls has improved during the last six months, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey. Wireless carriers have reduced the number of connectivity issues, such as dropped calls, to four problems per 100 (PP100) from five PP100 six months ago. Failed initial connections have declined to three PP100 from four PP100 during the same period. Wireless customers also reported fewer audio problems For example, calls with static decreased from three PP100 six months ago to just two PP100. More information from the survey can be found at www.jdpower.com/corporate/news/releases/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2009155.


Customer Satisfaction Scores Tick Upward

Customer satisfaction continued to climb last quarter, with strong showings for Ford and General Motors (GM), according to a recent report released by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

During the second quarter, overall customer satisfaction climbed 0.1% to 76.1 on ACSI’s 100-point scale. Customer satisfaction with durable products improved by 1.1% compared with a year ago.

Despite a severe drop in sales, customer satisfaction with automobiles was better than a year ago. The survey shows that customers said automakers are providing more value for the money, higher quality and better service.

Domestic automakers scored an 84 on the ACSI, as Ford (+ 5%), Chrysler (+ 4%) and GM (+ 2%) all scored higher than last year. ACSI for Japanese car manufacturers did not change much since. Only Honda showed a modest gain (+ 2%) over last year’s score.

ASQ is a founding sponsor of ACSI. To view the full report, visit www.theacsi.org.

According to a separate report, customers seem happier with their auto insurance companies this year, driven primarily by low premiums, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey.

In fact, customer satisfaction with auto insurers reached a five-year high this year, averaging 801 on a 1,000-point scale—up by 14 points from 2008.

Rates are beginning to increase during this recessionary period, however, and J.D. Power and Associates predicts customer satisfaction will take a hit in the next few years.

More details from the survey can be found at www.jdpower.com/corporate/news/releases/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2009151.


Inauguración de Oficina

ASQ opens Mexico City office

Grand opening ceremonies were held last month to mark the opening of ASQ’s Mexico City office. ASQ also organized a one-day quality and education conference in tandem with the celebration.

"We believe a commitment to quality, business excellence and social responsibility has become a universal principle and that the world is coming together to advance these concepts," said Robert Chalker, ASQ Global managing director. "ASQ hopes to provide the forum where this can occur."

ASQ is growing rapidly in Mexico. There are more than 600 members across the country, including five local sections and five student branches. ASQ offers many training and certification opportunities in the country, and ASQ holds a conference in Juarez every year.

Visit www.asq.org/global/countries/mexico.html for more details about ASQ activities in Mexico.


Education Conference Set for Later This Month

The 17th annual National Quality Education Conference (NQEC) will be held Oct. 25-27 in Jacksonville, FL.

The conference follows the theme of "Leading, Learning and Teaching for Tomorrow’s World."

Activities and events will include educational and informational sessions on topics supporting the national education agenda for high standards, data-driven decisions, increased graduation rates, improved teacher and principal quality, and a reduced achievement gap.

Keynote speakers scheduled for NQEC include:

  • Joseph and Judith Pauley, authors of Communication: The Key to Effective Leadership.
  • Dan Lukich, superintendent of Community Consolidated School District 15 in Palatine, IL, a 2003 Baldrige recipient.
  • David Langford, author of Orchestrating Learning With Quality and Tool Time for Education.
  • Rich DeLorenzo, co-founder of the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, an education reform organization.

For more information about the event, visit http://nqec.asq.org/index.html.

ASQ News

JOINT CONFERENCE  ASQ’s Statistics Division and the Quality Management Division are sponsoring the Institute for Continuous Quality Improvement conference, to be held in conjunction with ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement in 2010 in St. Louis. Visit www.asqstatdiv.org/aqc.htm for details.

LATEST ENTERPRISE MEMBER  The U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Contract Management Agency has joined ASQ as an enterprise member. To find out more, visit www.asq.org/enterprise.

MEETING OF SR MINDS  ASQ is hosting a meeting next month in Milwaukee for members of its Socially Responsible Organization (SRO) movement. The event will be held Nov. 15-17 and is billed as an international think tank on social responsibility. For more information about the event and the SRO, visit http://thesro.org.

QUALITY FOR LIFE  A new website has been unveiled that features inspiring stories from ASQ members about how quality has made an impact on their personal lives. The "Quality for Life" website (www.asq.org/qualityforlife) was created to share stories and recognize quality professionals who use quality tools and techniques at work, home or through volunteer efforts to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

NEW STUDENT BRANCHES  Four new student branches have been approved by ASQ’s Board of Directors: Ferris State Grand Rapids, sponsored by the Grand Rapids Section 1001; University of Central Oklahoma, sponsored by the Oklahoma City Section 1408; the University of Central Missouri, sponsored by the Kansas City Section 1301; and the Universidad de Celaya, sponsored by the Mexico City Section 1403.

EDUCATOR HONORED  Jens Jorn Dahlgaard, an ASQ member, has been selected as one of the top 100 educators in the world this year by the International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, England. Dahlgaard also received ASQ’s Lancaster Medal in 2004.


Quick Poll Results

Each month, visitors can take a short, informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from the most recent Quick Poll:

"Is Six Sigma on the way out?"

  • No 55.3%
  • Yes 27.7%
  • Can’t predict 17%

Visit QP’s home page for the most recent poll question posted:

"Organizationally, what is the reaction when an impending audit is announced?"

  • Defensive
  • Fearful
  • Resigned
  • Open and confident

As Seen in Quality News Today

Monday through Friday, QP editors post the latest local, national and global news related to quality in Quality News Today. Check out some of the most recent headlines posted at www.qualityprogress.com, and for even more stories from around the web, subscribe to QNT’s Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/ASQ_Brett.

  • "Chrysler Workers Return to Major Production Changes."
  • "Clunkers Success Limited by Program Flaws."
  • "Biden to Announce Almost $1.2B for Medical Records."



The number of organizations from Asia and the Pacific Rim honored recently by the Asia Pacific Quality Organization (APQO) with its World-Class Winners of the International Asia Pacific Quality Awards.

They are:

  • Vietnam Electric Cable Corp., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
  • Orel Manufacturing, Sri Lanka.
  • Hindalco Industries Ltd., Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • Shanghai Investment Consulting Corp., Shanghai, China.
  • Colegio Compoverde, Colinas De Santa Barbara, Mexico.
  • Hydroelectric Power Plant, San Joaquin Queretaro, Mexico.

The awards were presented at the 15th APQO/International Conference in Mexico City.

Word To The Wise

To educate newcomers and perhaps refresh practitioners and professionals, QP will feature a quality term each month.

De•light•er (di līt’ər)

A feature of a product or service that a customer does not expect to receive but that gives pleasure to the customer when received. Also called an "exciter."

Source: "Quality Glossary," Quality Progress, June 2007, www.asq.org/quality-progress/2007/06/quality-tools/quality-glossary.html.


QP looks back on an event or person that made a difference in the history of quality.

Oct. 15, 1926

Genrikh Saulovich Altshuller, a Russian engineer and scientist who created the teoriya resheniya izobreatatelskikh zadatch (TRIZ), was born on this date. TRIZ is a method for developing innovative ideas in problem solving.

In 1946, Altshuller began developing a body of principles and knowledge that lays out a process for solving difficult problems. Altshuller, who was employed at the patent department of the Russian navy, analyzed thousands of patents and inventive solutions from different fields of engineering. He discovered that often the same problem had been solved in different technical fields using a core set of fundamental inventive principles.

The TRIZ approach was further extended and used by engineers and inventors in the former Soviet Union before it was introduced in other parts of the world. In the early 1990s, it caught the interest of many major U.S. companies, which offered workshops on the TRIZ methodology.


Who’s Who in Q

Name: V. Siva Kumar.

Residence: Hyderabad, India.

Education: Master’s degree in organic chemistry from Annamalai University in India.

Introduction To Quality: In 1997, Kumar worked as a senior chemist in the quality assurance department at Orchid Chemical and Pharmaceutical Co. There, he initiated and implemented quality systems and good manufacturing practices (GMP) regulations in manufacturing and quality control areas.

Current Job: Since 2007, Kumar has been senior manager—auditing and testing services in United States Pharmacopeia (USP). He conducts on-site GMP audits, managing the testing of samples and reviewing drug master file/chemical manufacturing and control documentation to support USP product certification offerings in the pharmaceutical industry.

ASQ Activities: He is a senior member of ASQ and became a certified quality auditor last year.

Other Activities: He is a trained International Conference on Harmonization Q7 auditor by the European Compliance Academy. He is also an on-site GMP trainer and has spoken at several conferences in India and China.

Quality Quote: Quality is never an accident—it is always the result of intelligent efforts.

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