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The Role of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in Accreditation

Accreditation, to some, is synonymous with certification, credentials, or an award for excellence. However, accreditation is not just a piece of paper or plaque to hang on the wall in your office. It is an active process and commitment to the best, accepted practices, and standards in the industry in which your business operates. As a process, accreditation can, and should, benefit from Continuous Quality Improvement initiatives.

Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation serves as a beacon of trust, distinguishing organizations, institutions, programs, and businesses that strive for excellence and adhere to accepted industry benchmarks. Just as the CPA designation certifies accountants who meet rigorous accounting industry practices, accreditation sets apart entities that meet and uphold the highest standards of their respective fields. It requires a steadfast commitment to continuously elevate and improve the quality of standards, showcasing a dedication to delivering exceptional products and services.

Continuous Quality Improvement

Continuous quality improvement, or CQI, is often attributed to manufacturing, as it was first introduced in the 1950s in Japanese manufacturing. W. Edwards Deming, an American business consultant, introduced the PDSA model for product and process improvement to a Japanese manufacturer to correct product quality issues.

The 4-step improvement method involved the following:

  1. PLAN: is where the problem is identified, defined, and the current performance is measured. Then it is analyzed to set a performance goal. In this step, the method to measure progress toward the goal is determined.
  2. DO: now that the goal is set, it’s time to proceed with the plan of action.
  3. ANALYZE: the outcomes are interpreted to test the validity of the plan in order to determine whether progress is being made or the goal has been achieved.
  4. ACT: what is learned from the process is used to adjust the plan. If the goal is achieved, the process can be implemented on a continuous basis and becomes an accepted practice.

The result was a standardized process used to manufacture the product, resulting in a significant reduction in defects and improved customer satisfaction. Continuous quality improvement emphasizes the ongoing evaluation of the process to consistently achieve better results.

Integration of CQI Principles in the Accreditation Process

The principles of continuous quality improvement can be integrated into a business or organization’s accreditation process to ensure that they don’t only meet the accreditation requirements one time but continue to enhance their performance over time. In the accreditation process, the CQI steps are refined to reflect better process methods and tools at our disposal. 

Plan: Utilization of data collection technology and software tools to gather and analyze data.

Do:  Evaluation of the data to identify areas that need improvement, establish performance benchmarks, and the methodology to get there.

Analyze: Determine the methods to be used to measure performance after improvement actions have been implemented.

Act: Control and Conduct regular audits and evaluations of performance.

CQI allows for a more systematic approach when integrated into the Accreditation process.

How CQI Integration Enhances the Accreditation Process

  • Provides a structured and systematic approach to identify areas for improvement, implement changes, and monitor the impact of those changes.
  • Encourages everyone in the business or organization at all levels to become involved in the improvement process. This collaboration creates a shared responsibility that can foster innovation.
  • Motivates businesses and organizations to establish processes by aligning with evidence-based practices to ensure they are providing effective and efficient products and services. 
  • Promotes an environment of continuous learning and encourages staff to update their knowledge and skills with training, professional development, and education in technologies, coming trends, and best practices in their field. 

Continuous quality improvement is a powerful tool for spurring ongoing improvement in a business or organization when integrated into the accreditation process. CQI establishes a foundation and promotes a culture of excellence that requires continuous attention and effort to maintain high standards of quality, safety, and performance in many industries. 

Data-Driven Decision-Making

One of the critical aspects of modern day CQI is data-driven decision-making. The first step in the process is for businesses and organizations to collect and analyze data on their current processes, performance, and customer satisfaction.

That data provides management and stakeholders with initial answers to the following questions:

  • What areas require improvement?
  • Are there any patterns or trends that can help identify changes to be made?
  • How effectively are we meeting our goals? 
  • Could these goals be attainable with changes?
  • How can we measure the results of the change?

The data will drive the changes needed to improve results. Data is required for management and stakeholders to make critical decisions about changes to be made. Lastly, data will allow stakeholders to track progress and determine whether desired outcomes have occurred. 

Accreditation is a collaborative process between staff and external stakeholders, which can be time-consuming. Our accreditation and certification management software ARMATURE Fabric ™ streamlines the data collection, auditing, and reporting functions to make accreditation and certification activities easier. Key features include:

  • Customer relationship management
  • Data collection tools
  • Workflow management
  • Document management
  • Insights and analytics
  • Reviewer team building
  • Site visit management, and
  • Continuous quality improvement

The vast majority of tasks can be performed in our software, making it easy for all participants to know exactly what they need to at every step in the accreditation process. Our software has multilingual capabilities, can be tailored to meet your unique business needs, and integrated with other software tools and applications.  

ARMATURE has been serving accreditation and certification bodies for over two decades. Our software is standards agnostic, and our clients represent a broad range of sectors including healthcare, education, engineering, law enforcement, clinical laboratories, pharmacy, veterinary, and more. 

From a continuous quality improvement perspective, we leverage the principles of the PDSA model as well as ISO best practices, corrective and preventive actions, and root cause analysis. This enables organizations and programs to track, monitor, and enhance the way they work.

Contact us to learn more or to experience a guided tour.

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