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Clinical Microsystems, Part 1. The Building Blocks of Health Systems

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Background: Wherever, however, and whenever health care is delivered—no matter the setting or population of patients—the body of knowledge on clinical microsystems can guide and support innovation and peak performance. Many health care leaders and staff at all levels of their organizations in many countries have adapted microsystem knowledge to their local settings.

Clinical Microsystems: A Panoramic View: How Do Clinical Microsystems Fit Together? As the patient's journey of care seeking and care delivery takes place over time, he or she will move into and out of an assortment of clinical microsystems, such as a family practitioner's office, an emergency department, and an intensive care unit. This assortment of clinical microsystems—combined with the patient's own actions to improve or maintain health—can be viewed as the patient's unique health system. This patient-centric view of a health system is the foundation of second-generation development for clinical microsystems.

Lessons from the Field: These lessons, which are not comprehensive, can be organized under the familiar commands that are used to start a race: On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! … with a fourth category added—Reflect: Reviewing the Race. These insights are intended as guidance to organizations ready to strategically transform themselves.

Conclusion: Beginning to master and make use of microsystem principles and methods to attain macrosystem peak performance can help us knit together care in a fragmented health system, eschew archipelago building in favor of nation-building strategies, achieve safe and efficient care with reliable handoffs, and provide the best possible care and attain the best possible health outcomes.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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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.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

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