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Motivating for Continuous Quality Improvement

Posted By Kelly Gerard, Friday, January 29, 2016
Updated: Friday, January 29, 2016

Denver Public Health, the host-site agency for my fellowship, is driven by an internal desire to improve its processes and outcomes. This desire is achieved through Continuous Quality Improvement (QI), an ongoing effort to increase an agency’s approach to manage performance, motivate improvement, and capture lessons learned in areas that may or may not be measured as part of the public health department accreditation process. Denver Public Health’s approach to QI is guided by Lean. Lean is a systematic approach, based on the Toyota Production System of Lean principles and tools, with a defined improvement process to identify and eliminate waste such as inefficiency, error, and redundancy.1 Through a Lean-driven QI process, Denver Public Health improves the efficiency, effectiveness, quality, or performance of services, processes, capacities, and outcomes.2

Awarding QI Efforts

Denver Public Health established a Quality Committee to oversee efforts related to QI projects, staff QI training, customer satisfaction, and related communications. It is a multi-disciplinary committee with representation from all divisions.3 The Quality Committee is also responsible for selecting recipients for the Oppy Award. The Oppy Award provides recognition to teams and programs for exceptional QI projects. Projects are voted on by the Quality Committee each month, and Oppy travels to each winner to be proudly displayed. Winners are encouraged to decorate and add “flair” to Oppy. A picture of Oppy with the award winners is taken and shared on the agency’s intranet site and on bulletin boards throughout the department. The mascot represents the core values of continuous quality improvement and encourages and promotes a QI culture in public health.
Example QI Projects that have won the Oppy Award:
  • Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) process improvement in the STD Clinic to identify, reduce and prevent problematic use, abuse and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs 4
  • Text message reminders for travel patients in the Immunization and Travel Clinic
  • Personnel Grant Management (PGM) system in the Public Health Administration team
  • Travel authorizations process improvement by a cross-departmental team to simplify and standardize the travel authorization process
  • Vaccine preventable disease response by Epidemiology and Preparedness and Immunization and Travel Clinic teams
  • Email best practices by a cross-departmental team to reduce the burden of email and improve the consistency of emails originating from our department
  • Optimizing the Grant Tracking Database by the Public Health Administration team and Kelly Gerard
Call to Action
QI in public health is a continuous and ongoing effort to focus on improvement activities that are responsive to community needs and improving population health. 5 Public health departments wanting to achieve measurable improvements should consider adopting Lean principles and tools and promoting a QI culture. Successful implementation of QI requires a commitment throughout all levels of the organization. An effective way to engage and motivate employees is through internal awards, such as the Oppy Award, to acknowledge QI efforts throughout the department.
  1. Lean Systems Improvement, Lean at Denver Health: Saving Lives, Saving Money, Saving Jobs, Denver Health, 2012.
  2. Public Health Foundation and the National Public Health Performance Standards Program, Acronyms, Glossary, and Reference Terms, CDC, 2007.
  3. Denver Public Health, Performance Improvement Plan, 2015.
  4. SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions, accessed from web:
  5. Riley, Moran, Corso, Beitsch, Bialek, and Cofsky, Defining Quality Improvement in Public Health, Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, January/February, 2010.
Kelly Gerard, MSHI, RHIA is an Applied Public Health Informatics Fellow at Denver Public Health, Denver Health in Denver, Colorado. APHIF applications are due Monday. To apply for APHIF, HSIP, and I-TIPP fellowships, please visit the Project SHINE website.

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