Tips and Techniques for Statistics and Quality Improvement

Blog posts and articles about using Minitab software in quality improvement projects, research, and more.

There has been plenty of noisy disagreement about the state of health care in the past several years, but when you get beyond the controversies surrounding various programs and changes, a great deal of common ground exists.

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If you want to convince someone that at least a basic understanding of statistics is an essential life skill, bring up the case of Lucia de Berk. Hers is a story that's too awful to be true—except that it is completely true.

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At the start of a new year, I like to look for data that’s labeled 2016. While it’s not necessarily new for 2016, one of the first data sets I found was healthcare.gov’s data about qualified health and stand-alone dental plans offered through their site.

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People who are ill frequently need medication. But if they miss a dose, or receive the wrong medication—or even get the wrong dose of the right medication—the results can be disastrous. 

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Whatever industry you're in, you're going to need to buy supplies. If you're a printer, you'll need to purchase inks, various types of printing equipment, and paper. If you're in manufacturing, you'll need to obtain parts that you don't make yourself. 

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All processes have some variation. Some variation is natural and nothing to be concerned about. But in other cases, there is unusual variation that may need attention. 

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Many of the things you need to monitor can be measured in a concrete, objective way, such as an item's weight or length. But, many important characteristics are more subjective, such as the collaborative culture of the workplace, or an individual's political outlook.

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In my previous post, I showed you how to set up data collection for a gage R&R analysis using the Assistant in Minitab Statistical Software. In this case, the goal of the gage R&R study is to test whether a new tool provides an effective metric for assessing resident supervision in a medical facility.  

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One of my favorite bloggers about the application of statistics in health care is David Kashmer, an MD and MBA who runs and writes for the Business Model Innovation in Surgery blog. If you have an interest in how quality improvement methods like Lean and Six Sigma can be applied to healthcare, check it out. 

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In my recent meetings with people from various companies in the service industries, I realized that one of the problems they face is that they were collecting large amounts of "qualitative" data: types of product, customer profiles, different subsidiaries, several customer requirements, etc.

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