San Diego Business Journal

By its very definition, a nonprofit organization like a community clinic differs from a profit-driven business.

Mission-driven community service organizations value social change more than revenue. But that doesn't mean health care organizations should ignore sound business principles that have been proven effective in the world of commerce.

In fact, community clinics can increase their ability to serve their target populations by improving efficiency and "customer service" by implementing a Quality Management Plan.

Quality Management Plans have been used by large hospitals for a few years. Health care professionals know that these plans benefit both the individual patient and the organization as a whole.

More and more community health centers and physician groups are now adopting programs to enhance their ability to provide excellent medical care. With an effective Quality Management Plan, patients spend less time in the waiting room, receive more individual attention from medical staff, and have an overall higher level of satisfaction.

- Care Givers Create Plans

The secret to success lies in how a Quality Management Plan is designed and implemented , and by whom. The most effective plans are the ones that are created and implemented by health care providers and staff.

With a Quality Management committee representing all departments, staff members mold their vision into the mission statement, determine the extent of additional resources needed, and affect change.

An effective Quality Management Plan must have a course of action for responding to data analysis. It must assure that data, conclusions and recommendations are reported to the appropriate committee, department or individual.

So all staff members have the same information, these reports flow within a designated feedback loop. Regular data collection and feedback is essential in ensuring that problem areas are objectively and successfully addressed.

The effectiveness of the plan is then measured through an analysis of the post-intervention data collection.

- Elements Of A Quality Plan

Effective plans delineate a comprehensive, integrated and responsive system of monitoring and evaluating the provision of care and services. This consists of the following:

o Internal audits

o Continuous quality improvement activities

o Patient satisfaction surveys

o Peer review systems

o Provider satisfaction surveys

o Utilization management

o Credentialing

o Clinical practice guidelines

o Establishment of standardized policies and procedures

o Patient education systems and activities

o Risk management

o Client grievance review

Quality Management Plans are multifaceted and involve complex documents that require the collective commitment of physicians and staff. Plans that work well are those that incorporate the aforementioned components.

The time invested in drafting Quality Management Plans for health care organizations yields impressive returns in terms of improved care and satisfaction for patients and increasing efficiency among providers.

Tuteur is the former chair of the Physicians Council of the Council of Community Clinics.