Why It Matters
It’s still rare to find improvement methods applied to mental health services, but that's changing.
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International Network of Mental Health Quality Improvers Share Their Progress

By Pedro Delgado | Tuesday, May 3, 2016

International Network of Mental Health Quality Improvers Share Their Progress

It’s still rare to find improvement methods in mental health services. With few publications on the topic, it’s hard to identify and implement best practices.

To help address this gap, IHI has convened a small group of institutions from throughout the world who are making big strides in incorporating continuous improvement into mental health work. You’ll get an idea of what I mean if you watch the watch the video recording of their session at the recent BMJ/IHI International Forum on Quality and Patient Safety in Healthcare in Gothenburg, Sweden.

During this rapid-fire Pecha Kucha-style presentation, participants described the highlights of what they've learned about using quality improvement techniques to tackle complex problems in mental health services.

The speakers — from the Institute of Mental Health (Singapore), Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Deu (Spain), East London NHS Foundation Trust (United Kingdom), the Scottish Patient Safety Programme, the Devon Partnership NHS Trust & South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (United Kingdom), and the Danish Society for Patient Safety — talked about a wide range of projects, ideas, and issues, including the following:

  • The development of a Mental Health Care Trigger Tool
  • Building improvement capability in mental health settings
  • Inviting service users to be members of improvement teams
  • Applying successful improvement methods learned from acute care to mental health
  • Reduction of mechanical restraints
  • Improving coordination between inpatient and community settings
  • Violence reduction

The “Around the World in Mental Health QI” presentation was the culmination of a productive week in Sweden. The work started with a meeting of all the organizations listed above, along with Zorgnet-Icoru (Belgium), West London Mental Health NHS Trust (United Kingdom), our friends at Jonkoping (Sweden), and Trento (Italy). Hosted by the Swedish Registries, we gathered to discuss quality improvement work happening across a variety of mental health settings. We focused on understanding different approaches to QI, and started discussing a common approach to measurement and evaluation to enable learning and comparison across settings.

Many things stood out for me that day, including the strong presence of service users. I was struck by the peer-to-peer coaching I saw, the common issues that emerged, and the group’s willingness to evolve as a learning community. Most importantly, I felt their deep sense of purpose around alleviating suffering in every interaction.

The group has grown organically over the last four years, and I’ve been inspired by their openness to learning from each other. As I’ve watched them exchange knowledge, share stories, and speak frankly about their challenges, I’ve decided they are one of the most generous groups I have ever met.     

Though the group is relatively small, its reach is growing. Their hashtag (#MHImprove) reached 1,000,000 Twitter impressions by the end of the International Forum! 

These organizations will remain connected virtually and aim to start publishing their work in earnest —both as individual organizations and together. We agreed to meet at next year’s International Forum in London.

Has your organization been applying QI methods in mental health settings? What kind of progress have you made? Share your feedback in the comments below.

Pedro Delgado (@pedroIHI) is an executive director at IHI.

You may also be interested in:

The IHI Behavioral Health topic page for more information and resources.

The IHI Virtual Expedition: Behavioral Health Integration – Beyond the Basics, starting August 16, 2017.

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