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Medical School Accreditation: Simplifying Data Collection and Continuous Quality Improvement

Over recent years, medical schools have struggled to keep up with the extensive data collection needs their accreditors demand. Typically, this involves the creation, collation, and collection of data, documentation, and evidence as it relates to multiple standards and standard elements. This information exists in a distributed environment across a medical school (and often resides with medical school faculty who spend the majority of their time preparing for and providing a quality education to their students). These faculty members are busy and the business of accreditation can often be a burden to them.

Planning for, collecting, and organizing this distributed information is a challenge for accreditation and quality management leaders in these environments. It takes a significant amount of time and effort.

First, these leaders need to identify who can respond to each standard or standard element. Then they need to issue data calls (RFIs) to capture this information – and subsequently organize it in a way that makes it easy to respond to accreditor requests.
On top of that, several accreditation bodies have been adopting the concept of continuous quality improvement (CQI) as part of their requirements for programs, institutions, and organizations. This is becoming particularly prevalent in the medical field. Let’s take the example of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). AAMC’s accreditation standards, administered by the Liaison Committee of Medical Education (LCME), sets some clear standards and guidelines around CQI. There are twelve major standards set forth by LCME, each with multiple criteria. Their first listed standard and criterion, 1.1., states that:

“A medical school engages in ongoing strategic planning and continuous quality improvement processes that establish its short and long-term programmatic goals, result in the achievement of measurable outcomes that are used to improve educational program quality, and ensure effective monitoring of the medical education program’s compliance with accreditation standards.”

The concept of continuous quality improvement is sound. It helps ensure that standards are upheld between and throughout an accreditation cycle. It is also challenging and sometimes cumbersome for medical schools to manage.

Medical schools should not despair though. Help is here.

ARMATURE has supported the business of accreditation for over two decades. Our focus has been to help accreditation and certification bodies manage their data collection and workflow management needs more effectively, making it easier for staff and their stakeholders. While we continue to focus on these customers, we have also turned our attention to the medical school community by developing an accreditation preparation software solution. 

Creating a software product to help medical schools plan and manage their accreditation data collection needs is a major focus for us and we have recently launched a new product to facilitate this. Our goal is straightforward – to simplify the way medical schools capture data and evidence and significantly reduce the time it takes to respond to LCME’s data collection instrument (DCI). Some of the key features include audit planning and management, standards management, data collection, document management, issue tracking, progress tracking, dashboards and reporting. 

One important feature we have introduced is the ability to view changes across standard versions. When the LCME updates their standards, we configure the latest version within our system and provide medical school staff users a way to view what has changed, indicating whether those changes are major or minor.

Not only do we want to make this easier for accreditation and quality leaders. We want to ensure this reduces the burden on medical school faculty and administrative staff and put medical schools in a position to be able to respond to LCME requests in a timely fashion.

Enabling medical schools to respond quickly and effectively is a win for all stakeholders. And, by creating a structured way to capture and access accreditation information we’ll be able to create a strong foundation for medical schools to be able to build a framework to help manage CQI priorities – which is where we will turn our attention to next. Our goal is to launch our CQI module the first half of 2024. This module will enable medical schools to build and manage their CQI plan including metrics, documentation, timing, and frequency. Authorized users will then be able to manage and monitor CQI workflows and progress, assign task, generate reports, and prepare the relevant data required by LCME.

Over the coming days and weeks we’ll be working to add new CQI functionality to our software and undertaking rigorous testing to make sure every element is working as designed. Much of these capabilities exist in our software product, ARMATURE Fabric, today. We’re just adapting them to meet the needs of medical school accreditation.

This is an exciting project for us and one which we believe will save medical schools valuable effort and time. 

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We regularly publish articles in the fields of Accreditation, Certification, Auditing, Continuous Quality Improvement, and Integrated Risk Management (IRM).

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