Continuous improvement

What is continuous improvement?

Continuous: uninterrupted, without cessation
Improvement: bringing into a more desirable or excellent condition; making more valuable; making or becoming better. (Macquarie Dictionary definition)

Continuous improvement involves:

  • progressively increasing value to residents through changes designed to better address their needs and preferences
  • enhancing performance against the Accreditation Standards
  • commitment to identifying needs and opportunities for improvement in a systematic and planned way.

Continuous improvement is not a "stop-start" approach to making things better but one that forms a central part of a comprehensive system to manage and improve the quality of care and services to residents.

A continuous improvement process used by many organisations is:

  • identify the area or activity that you'd like to make better
  • plan what is needed to be done to bring about improvement
  • make the improvement
  • check how well it worked
  • decide what needs to be done next  

What principles are common to continuous improvement?

The following principles help drive and support the continuous improvement process. They underpin the our approach and are aligned with contemporary management thinking.

Responding to residents and their needs - customer focus
This includes:

  • increasing the awareness and involvement of residents in improvement initiatives
  • integration of resident information (needs, comments and complaints) into the quality management system of the home
  • shaping the direction, behaviour and culture of the service to be responsive to resident needs.

The use of resident information and feedback is a component under many expected outcomes and homes should consider having processes in place which encourage open dialogue in order to gain residents' feedback.

Leadership-driven organisational improvement
This means that improvement is planned and high on the agenda of the home. It also means gaining contributions from all key stakeholders (residents and others) to improve quality. It includes linking improvement initiatives to the mission, vision and values of the home as well as to its business and quality plans. This principle is reflected in the Accreditation Grant Principles.

Building a commitment to quality and continuous improvement should be planned and high on the agenda of the home, integrated into its corporate objectives and reflected in its approach to strategic planning.

Process and systems focus
Effective processes and systems are needed in order to provide quality service time and time again. This principle stresses understanding and managing the way work is done in order to improve. It involves looking critically at how work actually gets done, the way various jobs relate and their results.

Ongoing use of appropriate data
Data allows the assessment of a given situation or service. It allows quality and effectiveness to be evaluated and demonstrated. The key point is to ensure the right data is collected and it is used to guide and evaluate improvement efforts. The way the Accreditation Standards are written as a set of expected outcomes serves to strengthen the need for data.

Development and involvement of staff
This principle recognises the vital nature of staff and their contribution to the home. Their input and involvement is essential in order to get the best results from the service and any improvement activity. There is also emphasis on ongoing staff development education to enable continual improvement. Again the importance of this principle is reflected in its inclusion as an expected outcome in every one of the four Accreditation Standards.

Quality improvement and self assessment as part of the culture
In a mature 'quality' organisation, self-assessment and continuous improvement are integrated into the everyday way the home works. Planning, review and service development use good data and self-assessment results as input. In such an organisation, accreditation and other reviews are seen as a validation and external review opportunity. Management, staff and residents can tell others about the results and achievements acquired through their continuous improvement system.