Innovation Challenge

reprinted from Issue 12, Spring 2011 of Frontiers of Medicine (PDF)

We sometimes assume that we are providing very good care, but we can’t improve what we don’t know,” says Niraj Sehgal, MD, MPH, the Department of Medicine’s associate chair for quality improvement and patient safety. “By focusing on quality and safety, we’re trying to assess the care we’re providing in order to improve it. That requires data and a feedback mechanism to understand what we’re doing well, and where the improvement opportunities are.”

As part of an academic medical center, the Department has the opportunity to teach trainees how to improve the health systems they work within. This dovetails with a core recommendation for medical education reform promoted by the recent Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching report (see p. 7): cultivating habits of inquiry and improvement, such as engaging learners in initiatives focused on population health, quality improvement (QI) and patient safety.

The Department has launched its first Quality and Safety Innovation Challenge. “We hope this initiative encourages trainees, faculty and staff to work together to develop effective, innovative and patient-centered solutions to real-world challenges in healthcare delivery,” says Sehgal. More than 20 teams have formed, including more than 50 medical trainees. Each team has identified a problem or gap in care delivery, and is designing and implementing a result-oriented improvement project.

Later this spring, teams will present their work at the first Departmental quality and safety symposium. Prizes will be awarded to teams based on the magnitude of the challenges and the innovations, how well these improvements could be shared within UCSF and beyond, thoroughness of evaluation, sustainability of results, and other criteria.

“The UCSF Department of Medicine has a longstanding tradition of innovation,” says Sehgal. “We can be a national leader not only in developing ways to improve quality and safety, but in disseminating these discoveries.”

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