This post originally ran on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement blog and is written by the course instructor for Harvard’s Practical Improvement Science in Health Care: A Roadmap for Getting Results which starts today, January 20th!
The first thing I have to say is that I didn’t come up with the title for this blog post.
I would never choose something so self-promotional, but my editor on the course, Mike Briddon, insisted. Mike is one of those energetic, creative people at IHI who adds to the fun, fast-paced atmosphere at our office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
I must say I am blessed to work at IHI, an organization that has been a leader in defining the field of quality improvement in health care for more than 25 years. IHI has translated improvement science into practical, easy-to-understand methods and tools that can be applied anywhere in everyday work. These are the same quality improvement methods and tools that you will learn and use if you sign up for our new massive open online course (MOOC), PH556X: Practical Improvement Science in Health Care.
This MOOC, which we’ve been working on for nearly a year, is just one small aspect of IHI’s effort to spread improvement knowledge to students and health professionals around the world. The course will expose learners to world-class faculty, including Dave Williams, a fantastic teacher of improvement, and Don Berwick, who needs no introduction. You’ll also get to spend a lot of time with me, so I’d like to get personal for a moment about why I’m excited about this unique collaboration.
I spend most of my time at IHI, but there’s more to my professional life. I also teach a general education course at Harvard College called“The Toll of Infection: Understanding Disease in Scientific, Social, and Cultural Contexts.” Students in that class often want to know about my career. And perhaps you, too, might be wondering how a Harvard professor with deep roots in academia ended up teaching practical improvement methods at IHI.
The story begins about 20 years ago when I was in charge of preventing hospital-acquired infections at Boston Children’s Hospital. The CEO called me in one day and told me that he admired my work, especially the rigorous way I was applying epidemiology to an important hospital patient safety problem. I was flattered, of course. But then he pointed out that there were a lot of other quality and safety problems that I should be tackling, not just hospital-acquired infections. He asked me to become Medical Director of QI. I agreed, under two conditions:
- First, I wanted to recruit a small team of health services researchers who would work alongside the QI team to advance the academic credibility of QI through research and publication. I also wanted them to tackle some of the problems that frustrate clinicians and lead to inferior outcomes for patients.
- Second, I would not hand in my white coat for a suit. I wanted to practice what I would be preaching about scientific improvement on my own pediatric ward. I wanted to demonstrate the value of working in an interprofessional partnership with the head nurse on the ward, and to show residents and junior doctors how they could learn QI as part of their routine daily work.
Most of all, I wanted to try out the QI methods I was learning from IHI, and especially from Don Berwick, who was an attending physician on my service. It was Don who showed me how to integrate rigorous QI into our teaching rounds by asking simple questions about the data we were recording and the decisions we were making — the kinds of questions you will learn to ask and answer in this MOOC.
Based on that real world experience, I’ve continued to operate under the theory that academics and quality improvers mutually benefit from learning and working together. This is even embodied in my IHI title — Chief Medical AND Scientific Officer. This MOOC is the culmination of the marriage of improvement and science that has characterized my career, both at Harvard and at IHI. I have benefitted greatly from my colleagues at Harvard who have brought their own research methods to the QI field, and I hope they have benefitted from the disciplined approach to improvement we use at IHI.
So that’s me, and here we are — Harvard and IHI, academics and quality improvers — working together in a unique partnership to help you learn the basics of scientific, rigorous QI. I am thrilled to have a chance to bring together what I’ve learned in a long career of research, teaching, and QI and to share my experience with you.
Let’s get started!
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