Background: In 1994 the Department of Family Medicine (DFM) at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) developed an innovative infrastructure for continuous quality improvement (CQI) which capitalized on its existing computer-based patient record (CPR) system.
Cqi program: The CPR is a key element in all components of the DFM patient care CQI activities. Computerized record reviews, online queries, and special reports provide the background information needed to establish CQI projects and, in some cases, diagnose the cause. Any data entered into the CPR, including progress notes text, is searchable for use by the quality improvement teams. The most compelling aspect of DFM's CPR-based CQI system is the use of quality control charts that are regularly generated by the research division from CPR data. These charts allow the CQI teams to determine whether any changes in the process measurements are due to chance causes or are caused by specific interventions introduced to improve the process.
Ongoing improvement projects: Four ongoing improvement projects that rely on CPR data and use electronically created control charts are discussed--optimizing the treatment of acute bronchitis, improving adherence to practice guidelines for patients with adult onset diabetes mellitus, improving the recognition and treatment of tobacco abuse, and improving blood pressure control in patients with hypertension. Each improvement project has a unique set of goals and objectives, against which the project's success is measured.
Conclusion: A CPR system can be used to provide fast, organized access to large amounts of patient information to support structured quality improvement activities.