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Medical Matters: Quality improvement at CPSA

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April Messenger 2024, Medical Matters | Posted April 11, 2024
Read time: 2 minutes

By Dr. Dawn Hartfield, CPSA Deputy Registrar and Hearings Director

Each member of the CPSA team brings a unique combination of skills and expertise from varying clinical and professional backgrounds. We have physicians, accountants, pharmacists and data analysts on our team, to name a few, all working together to ensure patients receive safe, equitable and high-quality care. I am a pediatrician and had the pleasure of working on academic faculty in the department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta for more than 15 years. I have also been involved in quality improvement and patient safety work for over two decades, and I’m delighted to put my skills to good use here at CPSA. Since joining CPSA in 2020, I’ve had the privilege of leading several departments, including Accreditation, Continuing Competence and Professional Conduct. In Fall 2023, I stepped into the role of Deputy Registrar and Hearings Director.

Fundamental skills in quality improvement are crucial for effective problem solving. Though concepts of improvement science began in industry, it’s easy to see how they translate to a variety of settings, including office environments and healthcare systems. Just as we expect regulated members to participate in quality improvement, CPSA has adopted quality improvement measures to tackle challenges within our own processes, with the goal of meeting our legislative mandate, improving customer service and increasing employee satisfaction. Using improvement methodology is an elegant way to tackle complex problems because it delves into the root cause of the issue. Once the root cause is identified, testing potential solutions and measuring expected outcomes to determine success becomes more manageable.

Over the past few years, CPSA has used this approach to dramatically improve our complaints process. Using a quality improvement approach also ensures our changes are sustained over time, which is just as important, if not more so. Following its success in Professional Conduct, we are spreading this methodology to other departments across the organization. For example, following CPSA’s 2024 annual renewal, we received feedback from regulated members that certain elements of the renewal posed challenges. As a result, we recently completed a quality review to dig deeper into the root cause of these challenges. We are looking forward to applying our learnings to enhance the annual renewal experience for everyone involved. As we begin to implement improvement methodology across CPSA, we’ve noticed increased engagement and problem solving from frontline teams, as well as enhanced collaboration across teams.

CPSA’s Physician Practice Improvement Program (PPIP), which began in 2020, integrates quality improvement in accordance with the Continuing Competence standard of practice. Though some may feel that continuing competence requirements are a burden, I encourage regulated members to remain open minded and explore the many benefits of quality improvement. Understanding the root cause of practice challenges, identifying potential solutions and defining measurements to test those solutions is a powerful way to effect positive change. In our current challenging environment, using such an approach empowers individuals and teams to focus on what they can control to improve their work environment and, ultimately, provide safe care for patients.

A woman with shoulder-length blonde hair smiling for a professional headshot. She is wearing a red shirt, black blazer and grey necklace. Dr. Dawn Hartfield is the Deputy Registrar and Hearings Director at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta. She completed her medical school and training in pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan and worked in community practice in Saskatchewan for several years before relocating to Edmonton.

She was a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta from 2003-2020, during which time she completed her Master’s of Public Health in Clinical Epidemiology and earned the rank of Professor. Her clinical focus became pediatric hospital medicine.

Dr. Hartfield has attained expertise in quality improvement and patient safety, where she has held successive leadership roles in the healthcare system for nearly two decades prior to joining CPSA.

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