Accelerating improvement in health care

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Our Story

Who is the Health Quality Council?

We are a team of individuals with many different skills committed to helping Saskatchewan’s health system make care better and safer for the people of Saskatchewan. Here’s our story…

How it all started

We were created by government in 2002, in response to a recommendation from Commissioner Ken Fyke in his report “Caring for Medicare: Sustaining a Quality System.” Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to establish a Quality Council. Read our legislation, The Health Quality Council Act. Early on we consulted with health regions and providers about how we could best help them improve health care in Saskatchewan. At the time, it was tough selling a product – quality – that was difficult to describe. So we set out to learn where care was good and where we could do better.

Report cards on health care in Saskatchewan

Between 2004 and 2008, we created 14 snapshot-in-time reports, on topics ranging from the quality of post-heart attack care to wait times for breast cancer care. These reports showed there were quality problems across sectors and regions in Saskatchewan.

group projectImprovement projects start to bridge gap between good, great care

Based on what we found we started working with our partners on projects to improve diabetes care, post-heart attack care, patient experience in acute care, use of potentially harmful medications in long-term care, and wait times for breast cancer care. Through these first projects, we began to build our collective ability to use improvement science to make care better and safer.

Building a culture of improvement in Saskatchewan

In those early years, we offered short-term seed money, to help health regions and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency create new positions responsible for leading and supporting quality improvement. We also started a learning community, called the Quality Improvement Network (QIN), to connect these quality improvement leaders and to support learning and spread of quality improvement (QI) best practices across the province.

Moving from pockets of excellence to an excellent system

By 2007, pockets of excellent care were sprouting up in different parts of the health system and in different parts of the province. However, we were still a long way from delivering great care for everyone, every time, everywhere. HQC secured an additional $5 million, to radically overhaul health care delivery in Saskatchewan. Our pitch to government – that incremental improvement would not get us to a coordinated, quality-focused health system – was subsequently confirmed by the humbling findings of the Patient First Review (2009).

Accelerating Excellence focused on four priorities

Accelerating Excellence was our made-in-Saskatchewan approach to applying key lessons learned from high-performing health systems elsewhere in the world. It focused on four key areas:

  • Building leadership for quality: Between 2008 and 2010, over 200 leaders, from more than 20 organizations, participated in Quality as a Business Strategy (QBS), a learning program designed to help senior managers and board members integrate management for quality into their organizations. Many of our partners credit the QBS initiative with laying the foundation for our province's current transformation efforts.
  • Building improvement skills: In 2007, we launched an intensive course on quality improvement science, called the Quality Improvement Consultant (QIC) Program. Nearly 100 managers and health care providers are now applying and spreading what they learned in QIC Program.
  • Engaging providers: Releasing Time to Care™  is a patient-centred, nurse-led developed by the National Health Service (NHS) Institute for Innovation and Improvement in England. The program aims to improve care in hospitals by freeing up caregivers’ time for more hands-on care. Between 2008 and 2012, we coordinated program implementation in 86 wards, representing 2,432 beds in 11 health regions. We have also co-sponsored nearly 100 physicians to attend learning opportunities outside the province.
  • Creating a measurement platform: Continuous improvement requires continuous measurement. The Quality Insight website provides the public, and health care providers, managers, and leaders with access to information about how our health system is performing, and the impact of improvement efforts.

What’s ahead?

Today our health care system is benefiting from a strong foundation in Lean continuous improvement, which we are adapting and modifying to better suit our provincial context. Patient safety and continuous improvement continue to be our province's focus, so we can improve quality of care and our patients’ experiences. In order to make Saskatchewan health care better and safer, HQC will continue to coordinate and build improvement capability by working closely with a network of regional and organizational improvement specialists.

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