Tips for Effective Measures

Plot data over time

Improvement takes place over time. Determining if improvement has really happened and if it is lasting requires observing patterns over time. Tracking a few key measures over time is the single most powerful tool a team can use. 

Data over time can be displayed in run charts and control charts, allowing for the detection of signals of change (see variation)

Seek usefulness, not perfection

Remember, measurement is not the goal; improvement is the goal. In order to move forward to the next step, a team needs just enough data to know whether changes are leading to improvement.

Use sampling


Sampling involves selecting a few items out of a larger group in order to review or test those items and then draw conclusions about the entire group. 

It is a technique that is often used in improvement as it is a simple, efficient way to help a team understand how a system is performing. Sampling can save time and resources while accurately tracking performance.

For example, instead of monitoring the time from catheterisation to cardiac surgery continuously, measure a random sample of 10 to 20 cardiac surgery patients per month.

Integrate measurement into the daily routine

Useful data are often easy to obtain without relying on information systems. Don’t wait two months to receive data on patients’ average length of stay in the hospital from the information systems department. Develop a simple data collection form, and make collecting the data part of someone’s job. Often, a few simple measures will yield all the information you need.

Use qualitative and quantitative data

In addition to collecting quantitative data, be sure to collect qualitative data, which often are easier to access and highly informative. For example, ask the nursing staff how weaning from medications is going or how to improve the sedation protocol.

Or, in order to focus your efforts on improving patient and family satisfaction, ask patients and their families about their experience of the cardiac surgery process.

Adapted from The Institute for Healthcare Improvement