Process mapping – a recipe for medical quality improvement

I’m a second year paediatric trainee. I usually spend my time on the wards with acutely unwell children. The meetings I normally attend involve discussing children’s acute admission and their management and how to get them home safely. However, I recently attended a very different meeting with a member of Connecting Care for Children (CC4C) and four sports organisations that run different activities in the local area. In this meeting we were discussing the third Parkview Olympics which is due to launch in April this year.

We started by using a process map to show the path they followed from the original idea of Parkview Olympics to their closing ceremony at the end of the pilot.

What is process mapping?

In process mapping you take the start and end point of something you have achieved and map out step by step how you achieved it.

The idea is to think of each step you took to achieve your end goal, as if you were following a cake recipe in precise detail. Some steps may require more information, for example, in 'step four: follow the recipe to make the cake' you could then subdivide that into finding the ingredients. Your process map can end up very in-depth. Process mapping is becoming increasingly used in the medical world, in particular in quality improvement. It is used as a way of understanding a process in order to measure its effectiveness and then improve it.

Once we had completed our process map from the first Parkview Olympics, we then looked at steps we thought could be changed or improved for the next one. We took each phase in the process and thought about what did not work during the pilot. For example, we came up with a brainstorm of ideas of how to promote our next event along with the ideas from the first one. Once we had this in an idea cloud we created a timeline of what needed to be done to get from now to the launch event.

The meeting was an interesting insight into how different people look at and manage problems. Neither I nor the members of the sports organisations had come across process mapping before. It was useful to learn a new system for looking at a method and improving it. It was also a great experience to get out of the hospital and attend a meeting with professionals not involved in healthcare, to hear ideas from their point of view, how it related to their businesses and how different stakeholders view a project. One of the best parts of the meeting was when the CC4C practice manager got all the members of the meeting up on their feet and placing post-it notes on the walls to map out the process. It was an excellent way to break the ice and get people talking, thinking and interacting with the development process.

Since learning about process mapping, I have used it in a clinical setting to talk with children and parents about compliance with medication. It was a good way to set out the process of obtaining and giving medication and finding where they were having difficulties. In one consultation, walking through the process we found simple changes we could make to help improve compliance – such as changing the tablets to solution, and adjusting the timings. This thought process helped make the conversation more streamlined and helped my understanding from the family’s perspective.