Background: Two common strategies for guideline implementation are preformed practice improvement tools, such as flowcharts, and process reengineering by total quality management (TQM) teams. Prespecified tools fail to accommodate local circumstances, TQM requires an unrealistic level of local commitment, and neither has a proven track record for success.
Methods: We describe an alternative approach termed facilitated process improvement (FPI), a systematic exploration of potential modifications to systems of care, and its application to the implementation of an evidence-based chronic kidney disease (CKD) guideline, focusing on individuals not yet requiring renal replacement therapy. The FPI steps followed by the implementation work group to develop a set of implementation tools for the Renal Physicians Association Advanced CKD Guideline included: (1) developing functional specifications of processes, including actions and prerequisites required; (2) investigating processes of care in a variety of site types to understand processes and reasons for failures; (3) developing practical tools corresponding to root causes of failures of processes and subprocesses; and (4) developing a meta-tool to tailor local selection of tools.
Results: Formal needs assessment identified processes of care related to 3 major tasks: identify patients, develop and communicate patient-specific management plan, and implement plan. Subtasks were identified to address root causes of failures, and, for each, tools were modified from existing or developed de novo by the work group, which further developed an organized management approach that uses 4 categories of tools: (1) assessment tools identify opportunities for improvements; (2) tailoring tools, a unique feature of this approach, determine which tools are applicable; (3) implementation tools identify patients and communicate and implement management plan; and (4) evaluation tools assess the impact of implementation.
Conclusion: The work group, in collaboration with community clinicians, patients, and CKD and tool experts, developed and used FPI to provide a range of tools in a fashion that supports and simplifies local assessment, tailoring, implementation, and evaluation. With the formative work completed, practitioners whose practice improvement experience level and other resources may be limited will find it more feasible and practical to provide optimal advanced CKD management without the demands of conventional TQM or continuous quality improvement.