New Stanford Medicine center dedicated to improvement science

The goal of the Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement is to build and support a culture that is the best at getting better.

- By Amy Jeter Hansen

Lane Donnelly, MD, left, and Karen Frush, MD, are co-directors of the new Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement.
Steve Fisch

Health care organizations are graded on everything from safety to efficiency to patient outcomes, and the highest-performing aspire to attain the best possible marks.

The people behind the new Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement are taking it a step further: Their goal is to get better at getting better.

“Continued improvement requires intentional thought, focus, dedication and commitment — not assuming, when we do something well, that that’s good enough,” said Karen Frush, MD, a co-director of the center who is also the chief quality officer at Stanford Health Care and associate dean for clinical affairs at the School of Medicine. “It really is about being the best at getting better.”

Launched last summer, the Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement realizes a goal from Stanford Medicine’s integrated strategic plan. It builds on existing leadership programs and draws from a safety, quality and value committee convened by Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. The idea is to promote the science of improvement at the School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, Stanford Children’s Health and beyond.

“In addition to our dedication to discovery and preeminent patient care, we strive to cultivate a culture that embraces continuous improvement in care delivery,” Minor said. “We envision that the insights developed in the Stanford Medicine Center for Improvement will enable patient care centers around the world to achieve higher levels of quality, provide more efficient care and establish environments that better support physician wellness.”

By serving as a hub for resources, best practices and training opportunities, the center will empower faculty, staff members and other patient care providers to identify pressing issues, develop solutions and work together to effect changes.

The center will also aid researchers in publishing studies on their improvement efforts and in sharing knowledge more widely. The hope is that people beyond Stanford will contribute and collaborate as well, and that the resulting insights will benefit patient care centers around the world.

“First and foremost, the goal is for us to improve,” said Lane Donnelly, MD, who is the center’s other co-director, the chief quality officer at Stanford Children’s Health and an associate dean at the School of Medicine. “We want our care to continue to improve, particularly pertaining to quality, safety, efficiency, cost and patient experience, because first we have to be excellent at getting better in those things ourselves. The next part is to be recognized as a leader in effecting improvement.”

The center will be guided by an advisory committee that includes leaders from Stanford and Stanford Medicine, as well as nationally known experts in organizational culture.

In the first year, Donnelly and Frush plan to build relationships with other Stanford centers and schools that facilitate improvement. Work groups will concentrate on three areas: education and capacity development in improvement science; research and evaluation of improvement efforts; and data analytics. The groups will catalog improvement projects and training tools, compile a reference on improvement publications at Stanford Medicine, create a system to support people who wish to evaluate their improvement efforts and publish research, and connect people with data so they can measure progress. One specific goal is to develop an advanced course in improvement methods.

Frush said commitment to a culture of improvement is particularly important in health care.

“Patients entrust their lives to us,” she said. “We can never be complacent or satisfied with how things are.”

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

2024 ISSUE 1

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