Can you help us to measure and improve the quality of our care?
A large provider of services to the handicapped had been assisting people with a physical handicap, chronic disease, or brain damage for more than fifty years – at nearly forty residential centres. But there were big differences in how those centres worked on improving their quality of service. The result: differences in quality, which would grow only larger if nothing changed. Which is why this organization started working with P5COM to measure and structurally improve its quality.
Residential centres have a lot of requirements to satisfy. And in recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of rules, systems, and tools for improving the quality of care. Yet employees still did not always see that as ‘their’ business. Why not? Because the tools were fragmented, no-one was there to explain how to use them, and there was no structure for the sharing of knowledge. There just had to be an easier way.
Greater professionalism and quality in the primary process: that’s what the organization sought to achieve with this project. And that needed to be done in a way that would make continuous improvement a permanent part of the job in the future, with the focus on six areas: customer care, facilities, staff, finances, process, and professionalism.
From the very beginning of the project, we actively informed customers by presenting our way of working to them and, in particular, asking customers to come up with their own ideas and provide feedback.
Together with their employees, we developed a tool to give teams an easy and transparent way to carefully measure on their own how their centre was performing. A total of 84 items were measured on a scale of one to five. That may seem like a lot, but all internal and external requirements had been brought together in one single tool: from HACCP and legionella to quality of service.
Next, we taught the teams how to translate, in a structured way, roadblocks into steps towards improvement with a view to improving things on their own. In addition, we created a structure where best practices are identified for each residential centre and shared with the other 36 centres. This included a procedure for the continuous improvement of those best practices. Each part of the methodology emphasizes the development and stimulation of the right behaviour among professionals: transparency, togetherness, safety, and PDCA. Customer satisfaction, quality of care, and customer participation are also important factors.
Employees formed, together with the project team, their own picture of the situation at the residential centres in order to improve – with some outside help – things themselves. At seven locations where the situation was looking the worst, an intensive improvement project was set in motion where someone from the project staff worked with the team and the manager to reduce risks, create more structure, and improve quality in all areas on a structured, project basis.
The ‘new-found’ and repurposed best practices attest to a high level of quality and are seen as a welcome addition. Employees experience the new tools as clear and transparent and as a guiding light. In less than one year after roll-out, we have already seen an average increase at all locations: 20 of the 22 sub-themes have been structurally improved. And what we are truly proud of is the organization-wide change in behaviour. Where things used to be seen through rose-tinted glasses –which was bad for quality and safety – employees now enjoy holding problems up to the light, ‘because only then can you see where real improvement can be made’ – said one employee. Continuous improvement has become fun, and there’s a great sense of enthusiasm everywhere – from customers and employees all the way to the management.
Only then can you see where real improvement can be made
After just six months, customers say they already have a greater sense of well-being. The level of care has improved, with new initiatives arising daily to create an atmosphere of togetherness. Examples include customers who pick up the phone at the front desk themselves and meals that are prepared together with customers rather than just being served to them. Care requests have become more transparent, are well documented, and are fulfilled on time.