Background: Small tests of change can be conducted in everyday clinical practice, thereby turning the health care delivery team into reflective practitioners who can learn from, and improve on, their work. CLINICAL IMPROVEMENT WORKSHEET AND USERS' MANUAL--CASE STUDY: The worksheet has been designed as a simple tool for applying clinical improvement to the core clinical delivery process. A carpal tunnel surgery (CTS) team was formed to improve outcomes and reduce costs for patients and to promote improvements in quality and value. The team wanted to determine if surgical patients treated with local anesthesia in an ambulatory setting have superior satisfaction with care, comparable clinical and functional outcomes, and lower medical (and social) costs. For the first time, standardized assessments of patient case mix, treatment processes, and health outcomes were designed into the delivery process by gathering data from the patient and from the surgeon presurgery and 4 weeks and 12 weeks postsurgery. Results for the first 49 of 50 to 100 consecutive patients show improved outcomes and reductions in costs, from $937 to $405 per patient.
Lessons learned: Even though CTS was selected to be a quick and noncontroversial opportunity, considerable effort had to be expended to ensure that all clinicians and other affected staff would understand and support "the new way".
Recommendations: "Ramp up" improvements as time passes, more and more change trials are conducted and their complexity increases. To ease implementation of changes, teams can diagram core process "components" and attach measures, use flowcharts to plan and monitor implementation and use change management thinking to help sharpen the plan and anticipate problems.