Even small quality improvement measures can have big rewards

Sep 17, 2019
When Dr. Melissa Witty, the quality improvement lead at the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, wanted to find out how patients felt about the care delivered by their family health team, she gave out a survey to patients of the teams’ five family doctors.

Initially, Dr. Witty was concerned that patients would feel they were not receiving adequate access to care; however,most patients felt satisfied with their level of access, partly because of the team-based approach: the five doctors within the team always had a back-up doctor available and a nurse practitioner also sees patients.

The survey did reveal that patients would like to receive more information on new announcements and health-related news. To address this communication gap, Dr. Witty and her colleagues placed a “patient education monitor” in the waiting room that patients could watch while waiting for their appointment. A website is also currently being developed with information, links to reputable resources and updates on practice information. So far, feedback on the communication initiative has been positive.

“It’s interesting how sometimes just a small change can raise the satisfaction of patients,” says Dr. Witty. “These things don’t always take a lot of time and money to implement, but they have big gains.”

Dr. Witty and her colleagues are also part of the University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine Patient Safety Task Force that is assisting its members to better identify and address incidents that could have resulted, or did result, in unnecessary harm to a patient.

“What’s really been helpful about the experience is gaining access to expertise from other doctors who are established in patient safety initiatives to see what has gained the best results for them,” says. Dr. Witty.

So far, family doctors and staff at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre have formed a patient safety committee to identify patient safety issues and analyze patient safety incidents. The committee analyzes each event, provides feedback to the staff involved, and recommends changes to prevent such events from happening in the future. They have also implemented ‘Do it Better’ rounds where the event is presented to other staff members for further feedback.

“It’s a major step to developing a culture of openness around addressing what is working well, what’s not working and what we can improve for our patients,” says Dr. Witty. “If we don’t recognize what we’re doing wrong, we won’t be able to make anything better.”

This story was taken from the University of Toronto Family Medicine Report. Click here to read the full report.