Starting a new, hospital-based quality-improvement (QI) program can be a lonely task for hospitalists. What can begin with a rush of enthusiasm to solve a critical problem on your hospital floor quickly can lead to a single hospitalist in front of a computer screen wondering, "Has anyone else ever done this before?"
Unlike clinical knowledge, most of which comes from years of specialized formal training and volumes of peer-reviewed evidence on procedures, starting QI programs often presents a special challenge: a blank page and limited access to those who’ve taken on similar projects.
Those challenges, and the need to better understand what other hospitalists have already tried, motivated SHM’s Center for Hospital Innovation & Improvement, also known as The Center, to develop SQUINT, a new user-generated online repository of hospital-based QI programs.
"Being asked to lead a quality-improvement project is a daunting and difficult task," says Andrew Dunn, MD, FACP, professor of medicine and acting chief for Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s hospital medicine division in New York City. "Getting ideas on methods that have worked elsewhere is a great way to start. SQUINT is an easy way for hospitalists to get a head start on a project rather than start from scratch."
Access to SQUINT (SHM’s QUality Improve-ment NeTwork) is free to SHM members. Log in and gain access to summaries of QI programs from around the country. Because the summaries are searchable based on type, size, location, and specific kinds of topics, hospitalists can quickly find out whether projects similar to theirs are available through SQUINT.
For instance, a user could search for projects specifically related to transitions of care during discharge at community hospitals with 200-299 beds; a user in Oklahoma could search for all QI projects that have been uploaded from hospitals in the Sooner State. SQUINT also affords users keyword searches and browsing options.
For Hasan F. Shabbir, MD, SFHM, chief quality officer at Emory Johns Creek Hospital and assistant professor of medicine for Emory University School of Medicine’s division of hospital medicine in Atlanta, the ability to search user-generated, user-posted project files is especially important. Dr. Shabbir is no stranger to starting a QI project cold, or poring through literature and searching the Internet, worried that the materials don’t always explain the outcomes of a QI project that can be found through Google.
"You may just find a PDF on the Web and not know if it was a success," he says. "What’s unique about SQUINT is that it gives you a product, describes how it was utilized, and describes how it was—or wasn’t—effective. A lot of the work that needs to be done doesn’t always achieve the intended result."
Understanding the pitfalls and challenges of QI programs can save time and effort, he explains. "It’s equally important," he says. "Typically, only the successful stuff gets published in journals."
One of the first projects shared via SQUINT is a case study in using local resources to improve transitions of care for diabetic patients, submitted by medical director Jordan Messler, MD, SFHM, and his colleagues at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla.
"This was a project that we have done that we were probably not going to publish, but came up with some neat process things that we can share," says Dr. Messler, who hopes his team’s progress could help others get started. "If just one other program finds it and it saves them some time, that would be great."
Uploading descriptions of the QI programs can take as little as 15 minutes. Once project details and supporting documents are loaded into SQUINT, submissions are reviewed by members of SHM’s Health Quality and Patient Safety committee for clarity, the involvement of multidisciplinary team members, presentation of details, and the description of impacts and barriers to success.
Dr. Messler found the process of uploading simple and easy to use. He plans to add more.
"We have a variety of programs that we’ll probably upload," he says, including other recent QI programs addressing diabetes and DVT. "There’s no harm in putting them up there."
—Andrew Dunn, MD, FACP, professor, acting chief, hospital medicine division, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City
Like other online user-submitted forums, submitting accepted content has added benefits: increased visibility among a community dedicated to improving the care of hospitalized patients and career advancement.
"This is a portal for you to spread what you’ve learned," Dr. Messler says. "Then, over time, this could be something that could be added to a resume or get to the point that folks will be proud of having a list of submissions to SQUINT."
For Dr. Shabbir, the utility of SQUINT extends beyond his own use.
"I have a junior colleague who is working on a new quality-improvement program. I’m going to tell her to look into SQUINT to see if others have worked on similar programs," he says. "If they have, that will put you two or three steps forward. For the novice, it also teaches the language and structure of how quality improvement happens."
Teaching and changing patient safety is a big part of SQUINT’s goal, according to Dr. Dunn.
"Hospitals should not need to start at ground zero, take months to get started and re-create every mistake made at other institutions," he says. "By sharing successful projects and learning from our errors, we can move patient safety initiatives along faster and better. … And that will, hopefully, improve outcomes across the country."
Brendon Shank is associate vice president of communications at SHM.