Throughout 2019, I took part in ULHT’s Quality Improvement Programme, designed to equip staff with project management tools to implement changes in their areas.

I used this opportunity to develop my idea for increasing the efficiency of daily quality assurance tests into a functioning system/product, which is now in use in the department.

The project was a year-long effort of which I am very proud.

Me with my certificate from the quality improvement programme.

Background

Wherever technical equipment is relied upon, it needs to be regularly tested to confirm it is performing as expected. In nuclear medicine, radionuclide calibrators are tested daily to ensure that the radioactive doses administered to patients are measured accurately.

Producing a series of test results every single day, for multiple pieces of equipment, quickly amounts to a lot of data. So, in January 2019, when I was asked to type up and analyse a year’s worth of such data from a folder full of paper, you can imagine why I thought there must be a better way of managing it all…

By the time I had finished transcribing my mountain of handwritten information, I had the bare bones of a new solution constructed – which has since grown and developed into a robust, self-contained model with the potential for use across many areas.

The concept

I wanted to digitse the collection, storage and analysis of QA data, eliminating the extra step involved with handwriting and transcribing. I made a quick online data entry form through a free website and loaded it onto a tablet computer. The data entered linked straight to a Google spreadsheet, which I used to set up formulas, ready to analyse the data and populate summary reports in real time.

I added plugins to the spreadsheets to facilitate email notifications. Members of staff would receive an automated email if certain conditions were met, such as the equipment going out of tolerance or daily checks not being completed at the required frequency. I created automatic PDF summary reports which were emailed out at regular intervals, to keep users aware of trends and equipment status. My personal inbox was flooded with test emails before it was eventually ready to unleash on everyone else…

The programme

Having got the go-ahead from my manager to trial my concept, I was also put forward for the quality improvement programme. I took my idea along to learn how to implement it successfully, alongside a wide variety of innovative colleagues.

During the QIP, I learned about the importance of communication strategy, stakeholder analysis and different forms of keeping others engaged with your project. I learned to make simple videos through an online platform, as one method of communicating the benefits of my new product.

A trial run

prototype tablet with qa form

With a spare tablet from home, I set up a prototype system on one of our less-frequently used calibrators. After three months, it had thrown out a couple of basic issues, such as maintaining an internet connection and a charge on the tablet, but overall had demonstrated that the concept was a good addition to the department. Nobody was hand-writing or typing up results, online spreadsheets were automatically analysing the data and staff were receiving emails from the system at appropriate intervals.

It’s official

I arranged more official hardware through the IT department and expanded the system to combine multiple pieces of equipment, combining the information from each of them into a simple, digestible summary via email each month.

Expanding from the prototype was another learning curve. To retain the automation and user interaction I wanted, I needed to program my own scripts rather than relying upon multiple external plugins. I learned to code in Google scripts, based on JavaScript, which was very rewarding. I don’t think of myself as a natural programmer at all so this gave me a real buzz each time something worked successfully! I wrote custom emails and laid out my summary reports exactly how I wanted them.

I made use of my newfound love of Renderforest and shared a fun video to launch the new system across all the calibrators in the department.

Feedback

I collected feedback from other staff throughout the process: in conversation, through monthly department meetings and via an additional field on the daily data input. Overall, I think it went down well – it was readily accepted as the new norm. I am extremely grateful for the patience and cooperation of my colleagues whose daily routines I altered!

To feed back the results of the quality improvement programme, I produced a poster to summarise my work.

The programme was a brilliant way to structure my approach to implementing my idea, and provide me with additional management tools. It also gave me the motivation to push through the issues I encountered with hardware and internet connection, and encouraged me to teach myself the skills required to make the project as good as it could be.

I hope to put the skills I learned into use for future projects, and to investigate other areas that might benefit from an adaptation of this system – in medical physics or in any team that needs to collect data remotely.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *