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CPSI Share                                                  
10/15/2012 6:00 PM

​​Quality and safety best practices help to enhance policy and programs decisions

As a board member of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, Keith Dewar was intrigued by what others around the table were saying about the Effective Governance for Quality and Patient Safety (Governance) program.  As the CEO of Health PEI, Dewar works with a newly formed 11-member board appointed mid-2010. Health PEI delivers the majority of health services to the 144,000 residents of PEI.  

Dewar pitched the idea of bringing the Governance program to the Health PEI Board as one of their first developmental activities, to help shape the board’s role in the effective governance of safety and quality. The board is committed to using quality and safety best practices to guide its policy and program decisions.

“Quality and safety is the primary driver and touchstone for decision-making and the board has dedicated 25 to 30 per cent of their meeting agenda to directly or indirectly discuss quality and safety,” says Dewar.  “We wanted our board to see first-hand how other boards govern for quality and safety and this program provided the opportunity to do just that.”

“Your board may be at different stages in their development and this program helps you to take your governance program to the next level,” adds Dewar.  “Whether you have a new or a long serving board, this program can help challenge where you are at and where you need to grow. It can also forge a relationship between the board and the senior team and underscore that the board understands and is taking governance seriously.”

Dr. Donna Murnaghan, chair of the Board’s Quality and Safety Committee, says that the program provided an educational opportunity for board members to reconnect and to have a deeper appreciation for governance. She would like to see the Governance program delivered again for new board members and those who were unable to attend the initial session, held in the spring of 2012.

“Governance can be a slippery slope because you can’t allow yourself to go too far down into operations and it is difficult to know when you have reached that fine line,” says Dr. Murnaghan.  “When you are setting policy for governance you must truly engage in setting the direction and guidelines that allow your CEO and staff to do their work effectively.  This program provided for the flexibility that is needed for an effective governance model and that context really does matter.  How you work on a partnership engagement level in PEI is different from that in Nova Scotia or Ontario.  Part of a strong governance model is getting to understand the culture of the governance model that will work in a particular area.”

Murnaghan equates the process used to customize and deliver the Governance program for Health PEI to a well-oiled machine.  She participated in developmental meetings to determine what was wanted and what was needed. The topics covered during the program were married with engagement, discussion and work underway. “It was very interactive and intuitive as to what is needed in the system and the information provided was based on useful examples and best evidence. The expertise around the table from the team of educators was welcoming and informative, with a willingness to share their experience and knowledge going forward.”

At the end of the program, participants are provided with a comprehensive toolkit that includes a wealth of templates and models that they can adapt, modify and use.  Murnaghan says that the toolkit is a wonderful resource that they can refer to and draw on the examples to enhance their governance program. 

Health PEI has established a comprehensive governance program that includes the critical tools, strategies and insights needed to ensure effective board governance. By educating board members on the importance of quality and safety, they are working to provide leadership that makes decisions that respect and honour quality.

The Board’s Quality and Safety Committee has set up a quality and safety agenda and have planning meetings so that they can stay on top of things. This three-member committee have instituted quality and safety tours to look at the dimensions of quality, connecting with staff and the patient/resident/client to better understand issues and recognize progress on the frontline. Other board members are invited to participate in these walking tours to reinforce a well-rounded understanding and the value of quality and safety.

The Effective Governance for Patient Safety and Quality Improvement program can be customized for your organization.  To learn more, visit the Canadian Patient Safety Institute website at and click on Education.