By Laurie Diaby-Gassama
Just as it is hard to see the forest for the trees, it was not always easy for St. Croix County (SCC) Public Health to see the Quality Improvement (QI) within QI. The accreditation process has ultimately been the largest of all QI projects, but in the beginning it was a leap of faith — a blur of putting together piece by piece, measure by measure, one QI project after another, which in the end resulted in the department’s quality improvement ever so gradually coming into focus. Now asked to reflect four years later, in the midst of preparing for reaccreditation, it is easy to see that accreditation does work!
In preparation for writing this piece, the Accreditation Coordinator recently asked staff to write down what they thought were the top benefits of accreditation. First, it was impressive that it seemed easy for everyone to identify benefits and then upon review that QI had appeared in most of the lists. The department had always prided itself on setting goals and achieving them but accreditation has created a culture of punctuating each with the question, “Is QI indicated?”
Initially, QI was fostered through a training grant that resulted in the establishment of a QI core team, the development of a QI plan, and to kick it all off a department-wide QI project. Over the years, what has become central to QI at SCC-Public Health is the Performance Management Database developed to track program, administrative, and strategic goals through the four steps of the performance management cycle including all PDCA cycles when QI is indicated. This database is a one stop for QI resources and project tracking. It has greatly simplified QI, making it more commonplace and no longer a dirty word in the department. Formalizing processes around the review of public health data and research has also helped the department zero in on QI efforts that will hopefully make lasting effects on health outcomes in St. Croix County. All of which, without the framework of accreditation, would likely not be in place.
St. Croix County DHHS-Public Health in New Richmond, Wisconsin, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on September 17, 2014.
About the author: Laurie Diaby-Gassama, RS, is Accreditation Coordinator/Public Health Sanitarian, at St. Croix County DHHS-Public Health in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Contact her at [email protected]