Quality initiatives: statistical control charts: simplifying the analysis of data for quality improvement

Radiographics. Nov-Dec 2012;32(7):2113-26. doi: 10.1148/rg.327125713.


Quality improvement (QI) projects are an integral part of today's radiology practice, helping identify opportunities for improving outcomes by refining work processes. QI projects are typically driven by outcome measures, but the data can be difficult to interpret: The numbers tend to fluctuate even before a process is altered, and after a QI intervention takes place, it may be even more difficult to determine the cause of such vacillations. Control chart analysis helps the QI project team identify variations that should be targeted for intervention and avoid tampering in processes in which variation is random or harmless. Statistical control charts make it possible to distinguish among random variation or noise in the data, outlying tendencies that should be targeted for future intervention, and changes that signify the success of previous intervention. The data on control charts are plotted over time and integrated with various graphic devices that represent statistical reasoning (eg, control limits) to allow visualization of the intensity and overall effect-negative or positive-of variability. Even when variability has no substantial negative effect, appropriate intervention based on the results of control chart analysis can help increase the efficiency of a process by optimizing the central tendency of the outcome measure. Different types of control charts may be used to analyze the same outcome dataset: For example, paired charts of individual values (x) and the moving range (mR) allow robust and reliable analyses of most types of data from radiology QI projects. Many spreadsheet programs and templates are available for use in creating x-mR charts and other types of control charts.

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / standards*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Quality Improvement / standards
  • Radiology / standards*
  • Radiology / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States