Measuring and improving comprehensive pediatric cardiac care: Learning from continuous quality improvement methods and tools

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Quality improvement (QI) is becoming a central part of the work of clinicians throughout healthcare. Continuous quality improvement (CQI), Lean Management Systems (LMS) and Lean Six Sigma (LSS) are management philosophies as well as management methods. They offer an approach, a set of tools, and a way of thinking about how to more effectively assess and study clinical flow, including addressing variation in clinical process and operations. We define CQI as the daily use of QI methods as a regular part of practice engaging all practice staff, constantly measuring structure, processes, outcomes against effective practices (benchmarking), moving from one QI project to the next, pursuing the goal of “The right care for every child every time”. It is based on clear scientific principles, a valid way of measuring change and has theories of reliability and human factors that underpin the interventions. Significant variations in quality of care provided to pediatric patients leading to substandard care have been well documented. For example, in antibiotic prescribing for community acquired pneumonia; pediatric secondhand smoke reduction; screening for diabetes in cystic fibrosis program; and, in depression screening in Type 1 Diabetes. Despite this, not enough pediatric practices are performing continuous quality improvement (CQI) as part of their daily activities. All health care professionals caring for children should consider incorporating quality measurement into their practice. However, we need to focus on what is the right approach to take and the right questions to ask and address the challenges of aggregating scientifically imperfect tests of change. Increasingly, colleagues, patients, payers and certifying agencies expect such measurement to achieve the Triple Aim of better health, better care and lower cost. In addition, new payment models increasingly pay providers for demonstrated value rather than volume, and they expect participation in continuous improvement. Quality Improvement (QI) is a critical component of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Part 4. This requires pediatricians to participate in a meaningful manner in two data-driven QI projects every five years. Pediatricians can select quality measures to evaluate whether patient outcomes and experience improve, and if not, identify and overcome barriers. In this paper we discuss performance improvement using CQI and related methods, suggest approaches to help pediatric cardiologists to ask the right questions when seeking to drive improvement, and consider the implications of measurement theory and complexity science for QI and CQI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
JournalProgress in Pediatric Cardiology
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Complexity Science
  • Evaluation
  • Learning systems
  • Patient Safety
  • Quality Improvement


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