What is a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle?

A Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is an essential part of quality improvement. It is a series of steps that is used when trying to make an improvement. PDSA cycles allow for new improvement ideas to be tested and evaluated based on data collected. PDSA cycles are used in many industries, including manufacturing, education, and healthcare. Let’s say you want to reduce the no-show rate in your mental health clinic. You might use a PDSA cycle to test some improvements that you hypothesize might lead to a drop in the no-show rate. First, you develop a plan to test the change (Plan). You might decide to make a reminder call to each person with an appointment the day before. Next, you carry out the test (Do). You make reminder calls for two weeks. Then, you observe, analyze, and learn from the test (Study). Here you track the test—how many calls were made, how many people answered, how many calls went unanswered, how much manpower did it take, and finally how many no-shows occurred. And, then you determine whether, based on the data, the change was an improvement and should be maintained, modified, or dropped. Here you compare the pre-PDSA no-show rate to the no-show rate during the PSDA implementation. In most improvement projects, teams will test several different changes, and each change may go through several PDSA cycles as you continue to learn. It is important to collect data during each attempt so you can make an informed decision about whether or not an improvement occurred. The Institute of Healthcare Improvement has an excellent PSDA Worksheet that can be found in their QI Toolkit. See the website at: http://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/Tools/PlanDoStudyActWorksheet.aspx

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