Microsystems in Health Care: Part 9. Developing Small Clinical Units to Attain Peak Performance

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Background: This last Microsystems in Health Care series article focuses on what it takes, in the short term and long term, for clinical microsystems—the small, functional, front-line units that provide the most health care to the most people—to attain peak performance.

Case Study: A case study featuring the intensive care nursery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center illustrates the 10-year evolution of a clinical microsystem. Related evolutionary principles begin with the intention to excel, involve all the players, use measurement and feedback, and create a learning system.

Discussion: A microsystem's typical developmental journey toward excellence entails five stages of growth—awareness as an interdependent group with the capacity to make changes, connecting routine daily work to the high purpose of benefiting patients, responding successfully to strategic challenges, measuring the microsystem's performance as a system, and juggling improvements while taking care of patients.

A Model Curriculum: Health system leaders can sponsor an action-learning program to catalyze development of clinical microsystems. A "green-belt curriculum" can help clinical staff members acquire the fundamental knowledge and skills that they will need to master if they are to increase their capacity to attain higher levels of performance; uses action-learning theory and sound education principles to provide the opportunity to learn, test, and gain some degree of mastery; and involves people in the challenging real work of improving.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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