Evaluating, improving, and then maintaining high-quality performance over time are among the greatest challenges faced by academic administrators. Organizations use many different methods to attempt to improve performance. While organizations typically have a written mission, vision, and goals, as well as a strategic plan, academic institutions do not consistently use behavioral approaches, performance measurements, and individual accountability to promote achievement of their organizational mission and goals.
Continuous quality improvement should be a formal organized approach to achieve organizational goals with a focus on customers, objective data, and processes. Although quality can be defined in many ways, it ultimately requires meeting or exceeding the expectations of customers. The cycle of goal setting, process change, measurement, and assessment can be repeated to result in improvement through incremental change.
The South Carolina College of Pharmacy (SCCP) along with the Colleges of Nursing, Dental Medicine, Health Professions, and Graduate Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) implemented a continuous quality-improvement program based on the Studer Group program used by many health systems but infrequently applied to academic institutions. The program refers to "hardwiring" excellence within an organization so that it is not dependent on individuals and instead relies on a leadership strategy that uses aligned goals, behavior, and strategy to achieve clinical, operational, and financial outcomes through application of best practices in leadership. (1) Designed for hospitals and healthcare organizations (see www.studergroup.com), the Studer program is based on 9 principles: making a commitment to excellence, measuring important things, building a service culture, developing leaders, focusing on employee and customer satisfaction, building accountability, aligning behaviors with goals and values, communicating to all, and recognizing and rewarding accomplishments and positive behaviors. (1) The 9 principles are not sequential in implementation, but their connectedness makes them work effectively.
For a college or school of pharmacy, the primary "customers" are the students, along with external constituencies, such as alumni and contractors of clinical services. Applying this program to academic units requires transforming the methods that were designed for health systems to the academic environment. The SCCP was created in 2004 from a previously independent college and school of pharmacy. It is jointly administered under 1 accreditation by 2 universities, the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), with main campuses in Columbia and Charleston and a satellite campus at the Greenville Hospital System in Greenville. The college has 78 full-time faculty members, 760 students in the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) program, 40 graduate students, and an active research program and residency programs.
The objective of the continuous quality-improvement program, known as SCCP Excellence, is to focus behavior and effort within the college toward specific goals to achieve organizational objectives. This paper describes the program, including the Studer approach, the methods by which it was integrated into the college's quality improvement and strategic plans, and reports data from key indicators of quality.
To create an effective quality-improvement program requires implementation of multiple components related to visioning, goal-setting, planning, behavior, performance measurement, and culture change (Figure 1). Each of these components was put in place at the college between early 2006 and 2009. In 2006, the college created formal vision, mission, and core values statements as detailed on its Web site (www.sccp.sc.edu). The college identified the ambition to achieve "top 10 quality," as defined by key performance measures comparable to the best colleges and schools of pharmacy in the United States. …