On a mission to strive for quality improvement, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health has found a way to integrate performance improvement into their daily operations. Back in 2017, a year before receiving national accreditation status from the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), the department created a Quality Council and Quality Champion Program.

Through the Quality Champion Program, staff members are encouraged to become quality champions. Some of the requirements include taking at least three classes that focus on quality improvement and leading a quality improvement project.

The Quality Council consists of representatives from different organizations within the health department who meet once a month to share information on their programming and initiatives. Representatives report back to their organizations to ensure that progress and insights are shared at all levels. The council also updates the department’s governance team.

The effective communication created through sharing information has helped the department keep the accreditation process at the front of mind throughout the year.

Laura Klaesner, the Director of the Office of Strategy and Quality Management, said initially she believed the accreditation process would mark the end of their journey. Yet, Klaesner and her team have come to recognize that to achieve continuous quality improvement, they must prioritize PHAB’s national standards daily.

“It’s hard work. It doesn’t stop,” she said. “[Accreditation] is an ongoing process.”

Klaesner oversees reaccreditation, policy planning and advocacy, health equity, strategic planning, workforce investment, and quality improvement.

According to the St. Louis County Department of Public Health’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025 report, their department is one of eight health departments in Missouri and 276 health departments nationwide that have achieved accreditation through PHAB since its launch in 2011.

“We look at the accreditation framework as a good one,” said Klaesner. “As a bigger department it keeps us from working in silos.”

With a population of one million relying on their services, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health understands the significance of adhering to national standards set by PHAB.

Prior to PHAB accreditation, the department was accredited by the state of Missouri. Eventually, Klaesner said the department was ready to start aiming for national standards. By obtaining accreditation from PHAB, the department is always looking for ways to improve.

“If you value your department, it’s important to keep your eye on it at all times,” Klaesner said about accreditation.

Data plays a huge role in the department’s commitment to quality improvement. Based on data shared between the organizations, the department has implemented individualized training sessions to provide technical support. They’ve also organized virtual meetings where anyone from the department can join to discuss issues and collaboratively find solutions.

By exchanging information on what works and how to improve, it creates a culture of effective communication within the overall department.

Klaesner said the department has a better understanding of quality improvement through PHAB’s accreditation framework.

“We all want to do a great job for the communities we serve,” said Klaesner.

“As a bigger department, [accreditation] keeps us from working in silos.”

Laura Klaesner, St. Louis County Dept. of Public Health

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