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Quality Improvement

"Quality Improvement (QI) is, "the combined and unceasing efforts of make the changes that will lead to better patient outcomes (health), better system performance (care) and better professional development (learning)1"

QI is well established within many industries, and as such, its benefits are well documented across a number of clinical and non-clinical scenarios. It is all about working together, gathering real information from real teams and finding practical things that we can do to continuously improve as a whole. Watch our short video about QI in veterinary care here.

96% of you agree that QI improves veterinary care; and a lack of time, know-how and organisational support — among other barriers — are preventing methodical, full-cycle, QI techniques to be adopted in practice2

Our work supports you and your team to overcome these barriers.
We want you to join in, to share learning through valuable data and insights, and to make the most of the support we offer.

How QI can help

By adopting QI techniques you can take steps towards3:

  • Preventing avoidable harm to patients: In considering if there is a better, safer way for us to deliver care, we can reduce avoidable errors and save lives. When we share, maintain and advance best practice, we have a better chance of doing the right thing the first time around. To make our patients safer, we also need to look after ourselves and each other.
  • Improving patient-centred care: quality is about meeting the needs of our patients and clients – we cannot improve our quality until we first understand the needs of the animals in our care and their owners’ expectations and wishes.
  • Determine better practice: to know where we can improve, we must first understand the level of care that we provide and this inevitably begins with some form of record collection and data analysis. We can then identify what is working well and what is working less well – we can replicate care paths that lead to better outcomes. These processes can encourage good management and maintenance of facilities and equipment, highlight guidelines or protocols that need updating and can reduce wastage, which in turn will help with environmental protection and sustainability.
  • Embedding evidence-based veterinary medicine: quality improvement techniques allow us to incorporate evidence-based veterinary medicine into our busy working schedules. By combining our knowledge sources in a manner that supplements and supports us, we can integrate our daily practises with our wealth of knowledge (combining expertise with the most relevant and best available scientific evidence, patient circumstances and owners’ wishes). By streamlining our services for quicker and easier decision-making, we can save time. Efficient practice is more profitable and makes best use of scarce human resource.
  • Enhancing client compliance: in having an evidence-base to support our recommended diagnosis and treatment plans, we can be confident in how we communicate our recommendations to our clients, allowing us to work together, with our clients, to achieve well-informed, shared decision-making. As well as the benefits this will have for animal care, it has added value in assisting us in the marketing of our services, and in monitoring and improving client concordance, which are key factors in practice sustainability and growth for reinvestment.
  • Developing a united team: a commitment to improvement by the whole team, supported from board level, dramatically increases buy-in from teams. By establishing and supporting a strategic goal for your organisation to continuously improve the quality of care it provides, practices can stimulate discussions between all team members – it doesn’t matter what our roles are, we all have a part to play. With all team members on board, improvements will follow. Encouraging a healthy working environment – by discussing mistakes supportively and without judgement, with a commitment to openness and understanding rather than discipline and blame, we can safeguard our team against emotional distress caused by errors in an environment which provides support for our team and advocates for the needs of our patients.
  • Fostering a learning culture: By providing a structure where we can speak openly about our experiences (both positive and negative), we can be constructive about how we improve. Tangible improvements allow us to provide positive feedback to our teams and we can all see the benefits of what we are doing. Areas for further training or CPD may also be highlighted, while quality improvement activities themselves count towards CPD.
  • Facilitating a more enjoyable career: A great deal of professional satisfaction can be gained from being able to reassure ourselves that we are doing a job well. QI encourages team-work and establishes support networks which can contribute to a more enjoyable career.
  • Improving communication: By putting systems in place, we can ensure that changes are communicated effectively and consistently amongst the team. By involving all of the team it the process at the start and ensuring everyone knows the results of improvement efforts, we will have a better chance at maintaining engagement and in giving everyone an opportunity to make an impact.

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The support that we offer (over 20 hours of free CPD)

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How to take part

  • Take part in the National Audit for Small Animal Neutering, a simple audit for practices to share their data anonymously to establish UK benchmarks in post-operative complications rates for neutering of small animals.
  • Sign up for the Canine Cruciate Registry, a registry for the surgical management of Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture in UK canines. The registry provides feedback to clinicians in order to evaluate which surgical techniques and implants lead to improved patient outcomes and minimised complications.
  • Apply to become a Knowledge Award Champion for Quality Improvement. Champions are chosen based on their commitment and dedication to embedding continuous quality improvement.
  • If you prefer a bite-sized approach to learning, access our free QI Boxset to learn about Quality Improvement in a way that works best for you. You can work your way through each episode, or just like streaming services, you can scroll to pick and choose what you want to watch, read or listen to. 
  • Our QI features delve further into patient safety, clinical human factors, and the principles and associated themes of Quality Improvement. 
  • If you have a case example of how your team have implemented a quality improvement initiative, then download this form, and send us a quality improvement case example.
  • Are we missing something? Email us with ideas of what would help you implement quality improvement in practice.

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What our role is

  • Read about our commitment to continuous quality improvement in veterinary practice.
  • We work with our quality improvement advisors to make sure that the support we provide is helpful.
  • Read our report, conducted with research institute RAND Europe, which identifies a series of key recommendations for achieving full-cycle QI implementation, culminating in our six-point roadmap for the industry.

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Further Reading

1Batalden PB and Davidoff F. 2007. What is “quality improvement” and how can it transform healthcare? BMJ Quality & Safety 16:2-3

2RCVS Knowledge. 2020. Assessing the landscape and future actions for quality improvement in the veterinary sector- the insights, expectations and aspirations of the profession.

3RCVS Knowledge. 2020. Supporting Quality Improvement in Veterinary Care 2020-2022. Strategy and Action Plan.

Updated 29/07/2021