A guideline to ensure quality improvement work within healthcare is conducted ethically has been written and endorsed by Counties Manukau Health.
< The document, Ethical Guidelines for Quality Improvement – is designed to raise awareness of potential ethical issues which may be encountered in quality improvement work and build knowledge around ways to respond to these issues.
While frameworks for the ethical appraisal and approval of healthcare research in New Zealand are well established, there has historically been a lack of similar tools for healthcare quality improvement, according to Chief Medical Officer and acting Chief Executive Gloria Johnson.
“The guidelines were designed to address a large gap. It is essential that in undertaking quality improvement work that we are aware of and addressing the number of ethical risks that could potentially arise,” Dr Johnson says.
“When consideration for ethical implications is not well addressed, this can impact both patients and the reputation of our health professionals and our organisation. Being transparent, correctly managing patient information, minimising risk to patients and keeping them an informed (and therefore engaged) participant in their healthcare journey are integral aspects of ethical conduct, as well as effective health care,” she says.
The guideline provides a checklist and a decision tree to help health professionals and improvement advisors identify what the potential ethical risks associated with quality improvement work might be.
Areas covered include privacy and confidentiality, the management and storage of data, and informed consent.
Where the proposed QI work does not comply with pre-existing ethical frameworks and/or legislation (the Privacy Act 1993, for example) the guideline says the activity should not be continued.
The guideline was co-designed by Ko Awatea’s research and evaluation office, the quality improvement and the executive leadership teams.
The authors welcome the application of the guideline, as well as any staff comments. Contact Ko Awatea’s Research and Evaluation Officer, Brooke Hayward: firstname.lastname@example.org