Charting the future of communications for safety and improvement

 In Blog

By Cat Harrison

Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of people who have shared with us that it can be a struggle to engage people in their patient safety work, especially in a sustained way. It’s not a big surprise; it is really tough in any complex environment with competing priorities and busy people to raise awareness amongst those who need to know about your work and take an active part in some way.

Such a great deal of safety and improvement relies on connecting with and involving others, and creating meaning for them around what you are doing or proposing. We have created free webinar presentations, messages, resources and rally points like Kitchen Table Week to help with this. But there’s only so much that can be done at a national level; local work needs local input.

It’s the discipline of communications that is the expertise associated with the skills needed to do this sort of thing well. Yet it is often something that is treated as an afterthought or add-on when it comes to planning (poster anyone? This is said with just a sprinkling of judgement – we have posters too…!).

But thinking about this as a strategic part of any work that involves sharing information, learning, gathering insight, involving people, motivating them, and/or changing behaviour, will help you get the most from what you’re doing. So, that’ll be pretty much all and everything around working safety and building a stronger safety culture I hear you cry – yes!

We love to work collaboratively at Sign up to Safety; there’s always more to learn and working together is a great way to build on your knowledge and help you look at things differently. A recent manifestation of this is our membership of the international #QIComms group.

This is a collective of people who – like us – feel passionately that communicating well, with consideration and planning from the off, can help you in your work to make care safer and to spread improvement.

Together we have developed the ‘#QIComms Charter’ which outlines seven principals to help people gain the most from strategic communications in their safety and improvement work.

Launched at this year’s International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare in Amsterdam, the seven principles of ‘The #QiComms Charter’ are:

  1. We will use #QiComms to accelerate our improvement work for the benefit of patients and everyone we serve.
  2. We will plan out #QiComms from the start.
  3. We will give #QiComms support at the highest level.
  4. We will take a strategic approach to #QiComms.
  5. We will make our #QiComms evidence-based.
  6. We will continuously improve our #QiComms.
  7. We will put people at the centre of our #QiComms work.

Our collective experience from across the world (including Denmark, the US, Canada, Scotland and Wales as well as England) has told us that communications for safety and improvement – what we call #QIComms – requires a different approach to how you may have experienced communications where you work to date or how you have incorporated it into your projects.

So, with this Charter we are starting a conversation around what #QIComms looks like:

#QiComms is the strategic communications part of quality and safety improvement that builds will and strengthens momentum for achieving improvement goals. It uses communications in a planned way to support and underpin work that inspires, motivates and informs all those involved to deliver better, safer treatment and care for individuals.

The Charter invites all quality improvement leaders to recognise the strategic place that communication plays in improvement and integrate it into their work. As Don Berwick says, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI);

To deliver QI in complex systems you need to win everyone over – you can have all the facts right, but if people don’t understand the story you won’t get the conversation going.

With communications central to Sign up to Safety, Suzette Woodward, National Clinical Director agrees;

Good communication mobilises people, motivates them to continue and spread your improvements across teams and organisations – it connects people with each other around a common purpose and goal.

Read the Charter and the seven principals for yourself – click here to find out more about the #QiComms Charter and join in the conversation on Twitter, using #QiComms. There’s also a supporting booklet from 1000 Lives Improvement which delves into each in more detail and bursting with resources to help you.

We’d love to hear what you think; about how this affects you, what you think of strategic communications for safety and improvement in principal, what help you’d like to make it possible for you.

Does it make sense to you, challenge you, scare you, excite you?

What you think matters and we’d appreciate you sharing that with us.

And if you agree with the enormous potential this approach offers to help you get the most out of your work, please start a conversation about it and sign!

Read what principal 7 – We will put people at the centre of our #QiComms work – means to us at Sign up to Safety by clicking here.

About the author;

Cat Harrison is the communications and engagement lead for the Sign up to Safety team, and has advised numerous FTSE100 companies as well as national charities and health-related organisations. Her expertise lies in the development of impactful campaigns, the importance of language and tone in connecting with people, and engagement approaches that motivate and excite people to take action to make care safer. She tweets @catharrison4

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