Improving Culture, One Quality Improvement Project at a Time

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Abstract

Context:

A culture of quality improvement (QI) values collaboration, transparency, and staff empowerment. Organizations exhibiting a culture of QI are more likely to engage in QI.

Objective:

We examined whether local health departments' (LHDs') participation in a longitudinal, experiential QI training program changes QI culture.

Design:

Prior to and following participation in a QI training program, all employees of participating LHDs were asked to complete an 8-item survey assessing components of QI culture on a 5-point scale.

Intervention:

From 2010 to 2015, multidisciplinary teams from North Carolina LHDs participated in sequential cohorts of a 6-month QI training program, during which the teams completed a QI project.

Main Outcome Measure:

We dichotomized culture survey responses, with 4 or 5 being “Supportive.” We compared adjusted proportions, using linear regression, clustering at LHD, and controlling for cohort.

Results:

Data from 42 LHDs were included. At baseline, 7.8% responded that their LHD had a supportive culture for all 8 components, compared with 12% at follow-up (P < .001), adjusted for cohort and clustering by LHD. At follow-up, the percentage of employees responding that their LHDs had supportive cultures increased for all components of culture including communication by 4.1% (95% CI: 2.0%-6.2%), problem solving by 2.9% (95% CI: 1.6%-5.5%), team work by 5.2% (95% CI: 2.5%-7.8%), vision by 4.3% (95% CI: 1.1%-7.5%), performance measures by 5.6% (95% CI: 1.6%-9.6%), recognition by 4.7% (95% CI: 1.4%-8.0%), for conflict by 5.5% (95% CI: 1.7%-9.4%), and alignment by 5.8% (95% CI: 2.3%-9.2%).

Conclusions:

Engagement with structured QI training programs—and perhaps simply completing QI projects—can cause small, but important changes in organizations' cultures, thus increasing engagement in future QI and improving overall care and services. The article demonstrates that when LHDs participate in a longitudinal, experiential QI training program, their cultures of QI improve. Local health departments participating in similar training programs might experience similar improvements in culture, increasing subsequent participation in QI projects and improving related health outcomes.

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