Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The widening universe of Quality

Paul Boraski writes “My question is, how well understood and embraced are the contributions of the quality professional beyond what is traditionally thought of as the quality function?  My hope is that use of quality is widespread; my fear is that it is not.”  [see    http://asq.org/blog/2012/10/going-beyond-the-traditional-quality-function/]  

I am not sure that I share his concerns.  

The arena of quality has a lot in common with the universe; all encompassing, immeasurable in size, and expanding for the next billion years.  It is a challenge to about traditional role versus non-traditional roles for quality professionals in large part because roles and opportunities vary so much sector by sector.  

Take as just one example, the new growth of Quality in healthcare.  Many may date the modern quality movement perhaps to the late 1890s and Frederick Taylor, and observe the advances through Shewhart around WW1 or Deming and Juran post WW2.  

In healthcare, the exponential growth in the notion of Quality and Patient Safety did not begin until 1999, near a hundred years later, with the awareness promoted through the Institute of Medicine and the now classic “To Err is Human”.  

Today Quality is the growth sector in healthcare.  Where is all the growth in Malcolm Balridge; health sector.  ISO 15189:2008, the ISO standard for Quality and Competence in the medical laboratory has been adopted in near 80 countries.   Application of Risk Management Standards is seen through the whole of the medical equipment sector.  New standards exist for health facilities.  It is a Quality revolution from top to bottom.  

And all that change brings a ton of opportunity not only through direct care professionals, but through the network of Quality Partners.  

In the direct care group there are opportunities for Quality managers, Quality Team members, Implementation teams, educators and Quality research programs, Quality Assessment programs, Quality consultants.  Some of these are new positions that will be filled from within the health professions, many are new skills or borrowed skills that benefit from experience beyond the “traditional”.  

My career as a medical qualitologist is a case in point.  Over the last 30 years my career has evolved from clinician and laboratorian to one that is now full time focused within the Quality arena.  Between a medical laboratory quality assessment (aka proficiency testing), and Quality educator and research and  international Quality trainer, I can be immersed in Quality activities for years to come with no indications for slowing down.


Introduction and implementation of a quality culture.  
It is often cited that organizations with a culture of quality have more understanding and appreciation for quality activities, and organizations with the understanding and appreciation feed, foster and enhance their culture.  This 
does not happen overnight and does not happen on its own.

 Quality developers need to know and understand both the drivers and the tools of culture development including quality-friendly information formats and mores of information sharing (both formal and informal), awareness programs, and reward programs.  Developers need to be inspirational, innovative, educational and above all approachable.  

Academia and training
Increasingly Quality is being recognized as an important part of curriculum through the preparation process.  In the health professions, medical, nursing, technologist, and administration programs are all needing to find people with Quality knowledge and experience and strong communication skills.  Quality is no longer just part of a business degree.  We indeed have students earning Masters and PhD degrees in medical laboratory Quality, because they see a future of on-going and on-growing opportunity.

Training Materials Development
Quality programs don’t just happen.  They come from the input and energy and ideas that grow from knowledge and activity.  In the olden days, that knowledge input came from books.  Today it comes from books, and video, and courses and theatre and seminars and websites and blogs; and these don’t exist under some one takes the time and effort to create the content.

Program establishment
In our course we talk frequently about external-internal audits.  These are events where an organization sees the value and importance of the internal audit process, but see benefit to having some or all of them done by people outside the organization.  E-I audits are not just  certification or accreditation preparation exercises (although they may be that as well).  E-I audits can be valuable training exercises as well.  

The Quality revolution has spawn welcome and sometimes demanding expectation both within the community of healthcare professionals and more importantly from the world-wide community at large of clients and consumers and patients.  This is not the traditional business as usual, but is becoming our new-normal for a long time to come.

In healthcare it is an exciting revolution in which we can all participate.  



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