Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quality and the Tower of Babel

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, September tends to be the end of summer and the return to more active work.  Welcome back.

According to the Bible (Book of Genesis) after the Great Flood all the people spoke a single language.  They migrated to the land of Shinar (modern Iraq?) and decided to build a city with a great tower.  God had distrust of this large group and their motives.  He confused their communication by creating the many different languages.  The work on the tower ceased and people scattered across the face of the earth.

Over the last while I have been communicating with a wide variety of groups that seem to have a common purpose to make health and patient care better.  But somewhere along the way they have become very fragmented and increasingly disconnected. 

Some of them fall into that collective group of quality partners.  This is the group of standards development organizations, accreditation bodies, proficiency testing providers, educator groups, professional organizations, and equipment and reagent suppliers.  Add to that the public representatives through the legislators, regulators, litigators, and the media.  More recently I have increasingly had activities with the groups, mainly in the clinical Patient Safety arena, and a new group (new to me) focused on Medical Diagnostic Errors.  
Some of these groups have splintered off even more distinctly, focused on Quality in resource limited regions while others are more interested in the opportunities in the wealthier countries, and others still fall somewhere in between because their interests are in the resource limited regions that are found within the wealthy countries. 

Like the aforementioned Babel, each group seems to be developing its own sets of definitions and jargon and discussion groups.  Each has its own set of meetings, which not surprisingly all occur at or around the same time of the year, but sufficiently distant that it would be difficult to combine.  
In Canada I recently discovered that three groups all with common interest have meetings planned for June 2012, two of them in the same hotel but a week apart and the third separated off by about a two hour drive and an additional week.  What was interesting to me was that none of the groups was aware that the others were meeting or even planning common discussions.  And Canada, while big in geography, doesn’t have all that many people.  How “Shinar-like” is that.  (Am I adding to the confusion by creating even more new words?). 

The problem (at least in my mind) is that as we all spin out further and more disparately, the opportunities for common goals get muddied and muddled.  Rather that building a large tower to the heavens we end up with a bunch of low-rises or maybe townhouses. Not that low-rises and townhouses are bad things, but I suspect that was not our collective primary purpose.  

As it turns out, all these groups appear to have a single vehicle that potentially can draw them together.  LinkedIn, the original social media has forums for all these groups.  If you have the time and inclination, a person can connect to all these interested parties and find the common links. 

To explore this further go to and hit the Group Directory.

While you are at it, for those interested in our on-line course in Laboratory Quality Management, go to  Our registration for January 11, 2012 as begun.

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