Q&A: Quality improvement’s place in medicine

Mark Eliason, MD, is one of several speakers in Saturday’s session “Rewards and Awards: How to Make QI Pay Off” (S033). He talked with Dermatology World Meetings News to discuss quality improvement (QI) and its impact on patients and providers in a dermatology practice.

Why is QI important in a dermatology practice?
Dr. Eliason: The concepts of QI all wrap around providing better care for our patients. If we can incorporate the principles of quality improvement into our practices, we can ultimately improve the way we can help patients get better faster. We can improve how we spend our resources doing it, and even improve physicians’ lives.

How do you implement QI in your own office?
I try to identify areas in the processes of how we administer care to our patients and then work with the providers who directly play a role in that particular process. For example, we might look at the way most surgery is done. I might work with the surgeon to identify a specific thing that we want to improve, and then work with them and their staff to develop a strategy to come up with solutions. We implement those solutions, and then test to see if that implementation has resulted in improvement.

What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way about directing QI?
The first lesson I’ve learned as I’ve tried to implement QI projects is that they work. QI principles are very applicable in medical care. It is something that has a lot of good opportunity in medicine. I’ve also learned the importance of team building to make it work. When a QI project begins, the most important step is identifying and recruiting stakeholders, the people who will be affected by whatever change we are trying to make. Get them engaged from the beginning, and they will be much more willing to be a part of it.

How do residents impact the quality of care in a dermatology practice?
Residents are often tasked with seeing to the care of the patient from the moment they walk in the door. Because residents know the details of the treatment, they are in a unique position to identify failures in the system. Residents impact care individually by being the ones specifically tasked with the responsibility to see that their patients get better. On a system-wide level, residents play a role in identifying areas of improvement. They play a great role in being one of the stakeholders who can rally the staff or get the attending physician to buy into the effort needed to make the improvement.

Dr. Eliason is an associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.


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