Quality Improvement Methods


There is no denying that we are living in trying times. Workers from all industries have had to learn to adapt to changing professional landscapes. The field of dentistry is no exception. And yet, many of our dental colleagues are using the skills and tools of quality improvement to learn fast and adapt their practices to meet the needs of their patients and their communities.

What Is Quality Improvement?

Quality Improvement, or QI, is an effective approach to producing the best possible services and results for your client. QI not only helps demonstrate to your patients that you care about their health and their experience, but it also makes your processes more efficient so that you can grow your practice.

How Do I Implement QI Methods?

We will get more into the details of this in material in future posts, but a great way to start implementing QI in your practice is through the plan-do-study-act, or PDSA, method. It’s a relatively simple concept – make a plan to improve your processes, implement the changes defined by the plan, study the results of the change, and adapt the plan as data becomes available.



An Example of QI During COVID-19

A partner practice of AFL Enterprises wanted to establish social distancing protocols in their practice at the front-end of the pandemic. However, the staff at the time were uncomfortable asking patients to stand 6-feet apart. So, they implemented the PDSA cycle method of establishing their social distancing rules. Here is how it looked:

1. PLAN. They made their plan – create visual aids and guidelines for patients to stay 6-feet apart.

2. DO. They implemented the plan, which was to place pieces of tape at 6-foot intervals for people to have a reference for how far to stand apart.

3. STUDY. The staff observed how patients interacted with the presence of the tape. The patients mostly ignored it.

4. ACT. They began adapting their plan – putting up a sign to accompany the tape and generating additional change ideas, then repeating the PDSA cycle.

The result: a respectful and patient-friendly way to communicate how to interact in a changing environment.

Imagine if the clinic had simply adopted a new way of communicating these guidelines without asking learning questions? They would have been frustrated that patients mostly ignored their “system” and would have tried to force a solution. Instead, they were curious and open-minded. By testing a series of small changes, they were able to adapt quickly and frequently until they had a system that worked.

This is a simple yet effective way you can implement Quality Improvement Methods in your business. We will delve into more examples in the coming weeks and help you get an idea for how to start exploring QI methods in your practice.

Helpful Links

· Quality Improvement 102: The Model for Improvement: Your Engine for Change Summary Sheet

· PDSA Worksheet

· Whiteboard: PDSA in Everyday Life


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