From Hospitals to Everyday Life: Using QI Skills to Tackle Problems

Picture of Jason Williams

Published on 25 June 2024 at 12:15

by Jason Williams

Using QI skills outside work


In the dynamic and demanding field of healthcare, Quality Improvement (QI) has emerged as a crucial practice for enhancing patient care, streamlining processes, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. However, the principles and methodologies of QI are not confined to the walls of hospitals and clinics. These skills can be remarkably effective when applied to everyday life, offering a structured approach to solving problems and improving personal and professional outcomes. 


In this blog, we explore how healthcare professionals can leverage their QI expertise beyond their work environment to address challenges and enhance their daily lives.



Understanding quality improvement in healthcare

Before delving into the broader applications, it's essential to understand what QI entails in the healthcare setting. Quality improvement involves systematic efforts to enhance healthcare services and outcomes through iterative testing, data-driven decisions, and collaborative teamwork. Common QI methodologies include Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles, Six Sigma, and Lean principles. These approaches focus on identifying problems, implementing changes, measuring results, and refining processes based on feedback.


Applying QI skills to everyday life

1. Identifying problems and setting goals

Just as healthcare professionals identify areas for improvement in patient care, you can pinpoint issues in your personal or professional life. Whether it's managing time more effectively, improving communication with family members, or achieving fitness goals, the first step is to clearly define the problem and set specific, measurable objectives.


I have seen structured techniques like fishbone diagrams, and less structured post-it note brainstorming both used to get to the root cause of personal challenges being were facing. Then like all great continuous improvement the trick has often been to set short-term goals and build on them as success is achieved.


2. Planning and implementing changes

Using the PDSA cycle, you can plan small, manageable changes to address your identified problems. Let’s say your goal is to improve your work-life balance. Then, the "Plan" phase might involve scheduling specific times for work and leisure, and the "Do" phase would involve implementing this schedule for a set period.


Just take the example of Dr. Emily, a paediatrician friend, she applied QI techniques to improve the amount of time she spent on aerobic fitness. Using the PDSA cycle, she experimented with different strategies to carve out time amidst a busy schedule for more walking, jogging and cycling. By incrementally adjusting her approach, she achieved a sustainable balance that didn’t impact on her work or family life, whilst enhancing her overall wellbeing.


3. Studying and analysing results

Just as data analysis is critical in QI projects, assessing the impact of changes in personal endeavors is equally important. This involves reflecting on what worked, what didn’t, and why. Keeping a journal or using digital tools to track progress can provide valuable insights.


Personally, I have found success in a combination of journalling and SPC charts to track my running as I trained for a 100-mile ultramarathon. The improvements evidenced on the charts giving confidence to build on training interventions and ultimately go into the big race fitter than ever!


4. Refining and repeating the process

The essence of QI lies in its continuous nature. Based on the results and feedback, you can refine your approaches and repeat the cycle. This iterative process helps in compounding results over time and fosters a habit of lifelong learning and adaptation.


Again, I have seen this in my ultramarathon training and racing – every training block and major race provides the next set of lessons to apply in the next training block. There is always something else to work on – always room for improvement.



Real-life examples of QI skills in action

1. Time management

Healthcare professionals are adept at prioritising tasks and managing time efficiently within a clinical setting. Applying similar techniques, such as creating daily schedules, setting priorities, and using tools like timers or apps, can enhance productivity in personal tasks.


And why not applying the PDSA cycle to test and refine your daily schedules? Let’s say your goal is to reduce the morning rush.


Plan: Identify a time management problem, such as constant morning rushes.

Do: Implement a small change, like preparing the next day's items the night before.

Study: Monitor the results - do mornings feel less hectic?

Act: If successful, standardise the practice; if not, modify the approach and repeat.


This iterative approach fosters continuous self-improvement and more efficient use of time.



2. Problem-Solving in Daily Challenges

Everyday challenges, from managing household chores to addressing recurring issues like traffic congestion in a local area, can benefit from a QI approach. Six Sigma’s DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology is particularly useful:


Define: Clearly define the problem.

Measure: Collect data to understand the scope and impact.

Analyse: Identify root causes.

Improve: Develop and implement solutions.

Control: Monitor to ensure the problem does not recur.


This structured framework helps in systematically addressing and resolving issues.



3. Health and wellness

QI methodologies can be instrumental in personal health management. Setting specific health or fitness goals and using PDSA cycles to test different strategies (e.g. meal prepping, incorporating exercise into daily routines) can lead to sustainable lifestyle changes.


4. Financial management

Just as QI projects often involve budget management, the same principles can be applied to personal finances. Identifying areas of excessive spending, setting savings goals, and systematically tracking expenses can lead to better financial health.


5. Improving relationships

Effective communication and teamwork are cornerstones of QI in healthcare. Applying these skills at home or in social settings—through active listening, providing constructive feedback, and setting shared goals—can enhance relationships and foster a supportive environment.



Building a culture of continuous improvement

One of the most significant advantages of applying QI skills to everyday life is the development of a mindset geared towards continuous improvement. This mindset encourages individuals to constantly seek better ways of doing things, remain open to change, and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. My most important work is undoubtedly bringing up my children, and if all I achieve is them growing up with an improvement mindset, I will be happy.




Quality Improvement is more than a professional skill - it's a powerful tool that can transform many aspects of our everyday life. By leveraging improvement methodologies, you can address personal challenges with the same rigor and structure that you apply to clinical problems, leading to enhanced wellbeing and fulfillment.


As we continue to navigate the complexities of modern life, the ability to apply QI skills beyond the hospital setting will undoubtedly help us thrive.




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