An Example of Using Data

in Measurement, Public Safety, Videos

By David M. Williams, PhD

Harvardx course Practical Improvement Science in Health Care with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Here’s an example from an ambulance service. By contract, the service has to achieve a response time performance goal of 90%. So the board report shows the percentages on time each month. As long as the goal is met, no one really worries about the performance. It’s kind of either a did it or you didn’t. Note though that when we switched to looking at a few years of data over time, so we can see the behavior of that data, the behavior of that system, we learned that something has actually reduced the variation in their response time reliability. If they did this through efficiency, they likely saved money and improved access. But if this came at a cost, they met their goal but maybe have increased their cost per encounter.

So data aids us in being able to develop knowledge and understanding variation as we test to improve processes. It provides us the feedback we need to know if our changes are resulting in improvement.

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