A Quality Improvement Collaborative Can Boost Emergency Preparedness, Study Finds

From 2005 to 2008, researchers at the RAND Corporation spurred the use of quality improvement—a data-driven approach to performance often used in industry, the military and health care, but not public health—to boost emergency preparedness among state and local public health agencies.

The researchers published a white paper and articles on the quality improvement approach, developed a pilot collaborative to help five public health agencies use it to prepare for pandemic flu and created a toolkit to encourage other agencies to use quality improvement to improve emergency preparedness.

Key Findings

  • Researchers reported the following findings in "Using Quality Improvement Methods To Improve Public Health Emergency Preparedness: PREPARE For Pandemic Influenza" (Health Affairs, 27[5], 2008; online version, July 2008):

    • The quality improvement collaborative provided substantial evidence that such an approach can boost emergency preparedness and overall performance of public health departments.
    • The public health teams participating in the collaborative were enthusiastic about applying quality improvement strategies to emergency preparedness, as well as to the day-to-day activities of public health agencies.

Key Results

  • Researchers reported the following additional results to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF):

    • RAND published Quality Improvement in Public Health: A Way Forward (2006), a white paper that makes the case for using quality improvement (QI) in public health and suggests how to speed its integration into public health practice.
    • RAND researchers developed and disseminated PREPARE for Pandemic Influenza: A Quality Improvement Toolkit to help state and local health departments incorporate quality improvement strategies into emergency preparedness.
    • The pilot collaborative "galvanized a QI movement in public health," according to Project Co-Director Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH. The collaborative not only raised awareness of the need for quality improvement in public health, but also provided a concrete example by applying the approach to preparedness for pandemic flu.