Using quality-improvement techniques to enhance patient education and counselling of diagnosis and management

Qual Prim Care. 2009;17(3):205-13.


Background: Patients recall less than half the information provided to them by their physicians.

Aims: The aim of this study was to use quality-improvement (QI) techniques to enhance patient understanding of diagnosis, management and follow-up at the end of the office visit.

Method: QI techniques including stakeholder analysis, process mapping and plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles were used in a pilot study in an outpatient endocrinology clinic specialising in bone disease. The impact of these interventions was evaluated by pre- and post-intervention patient surveys that included qualitative and quantitative data.

Results: A team of endocrinology fellows and faculty with expertise in QI developed a series of tools to encourage conversation and interaction during the encounter and to serve as a reference for patients to take home through five PDSA cycles. The tools were iterations of written materials provided to patients at the end of the clinical encounter. In each cycle, the tools were modified according to feedback from patients and providers. Ninety-three patients participated in this study. Patients were surveyed after the implementation of two of the five cycles. Compared with pre-intervention, modifications during the two cycles were associated with a non-significant increase in patients' understanding of the reasons for testing (from 64% to 80% and 75%); management plan (from 61% to 86% and 79%); and future follow-up plans (from 64% to 86% and 81%); P > 0.05 for all three outcomes. Improvement was not seen in patients' knowledge of their diagnoses (from 74% to 73% and 70%; P > 0.05).

Conclusion: This pilot study shows how QI tools can be used for creating and initiating system improvements aimed at enhancing patient education and counselling.

MeSH terms

  • Counseling*
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Patient Care Planning*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / methods*