A person to bring into your organization may be W. Edwards Deming. Now, some of you may know who he is, and others may be unfamiliar. Although Deming is no longer with us, his work continues to have a positive impact on many organizations around the world. His approach was straightforward: we need to continuously improve our work. This is a simple philosophy that can positively ripple through your organization in a positive way.

The simple philosophy is illustrated below with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which Deming promoted.
Plan Do Check Act Cycle for Health IT
Each step in the cycle is described plainly as follows:
  • Plan: You need to have objectives and processes for the work to be done.
  • Do: When the objectives and processes are defined, you then need to implement – do the work. As the work is done, collecting data on how you are doing is essential.
  • Check: You need to take the data collected and measure meaningfully. The measurements will provide an unbiased perspective on how you are performing against the objectives and how the processes are working. The measurements will facilitate an understanding of the gaps in expectations and identify areas for improvement.
  • Act: Based on the measurements, you need to determine what actions may be required to change and close the gaps or enhance the performance. The decision on the actions required may impact the plan, so the cycle starts anew.
Simple process, challenging to adopt. We sometimes tend to stay the course and avoid change, or we don’t take the time to plan and check… we just do, especially with the pressures of HITECH and other patient care demands.
The following quote from Deming happened long before email, texting, and all forms of social media, so the impact of his following statement can be applied with at least a 20X factor.
“The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” – W. Edwards Deming
We cannot afford to let the interruptions disrupt us from the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Taking this simple approach will enable health IT professionals with a structure to be more productive and deliver more consistently.
Again, as Deming simply said:
“If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.”
“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.”
Modest statements that carry a punch!
We can do things that are just a series of unconnected activities, resulting in unproductive, ineffective work. We can do things in an unchecked manner, resulting in meandering status reports or a list of excuses.
The essential point is: no one really wants to do work this way!
So, with all the healthcare IT initiatives and projects, it may be time to go back the PDCA basics. It is a simple approach to deliver real results with a mindset of continuously improving.
“What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for individual competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis.” – W. Edward Deming
To facilitate win-win healthcare changes, using Plan-Do-Check-Act may be a solid reminder and a cycle we need to adopt again.
Check out more about Deming and other lean and continuous improvement practices in healthcare:
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