Helping Doctors Make Better Decisions

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Johnson City Medical Center Trauma Service - photo courtesy of Mountain States Health Alliance.

Healthcare workers rely on timely data to make informed decisions about patient treatment. CareSpark, a nonprofit regional health information organization in Kingsport, Tenn., has been working to build a collaborative information system that enables patients and healthcare workers to make better-informed decisions by leveraging electronic medical records. Looking to develop quality practices into its processes, CareSpark approached the ASQ Northeast Tennessee Section for help. ASQ member Duke Okes heeded the call and in doing so, demonstrated his commitment to Quality for Life.

Relying primarily on volunteers from local healthcare providers, insurance companies, and community organizations, CareSpark needed guidance on implementing the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE) criteria, a methodology based on the Baldrige National Quality Program. Since volunteers of CareSpark are organized into sub-committees such as marketing, technology, finance, clinical, and outcomes/evaluation, one challenge was determining how each committee's roles and responsibilities fit into the TNCPE criteria.

Using the Six Sigma suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers tool (SIPOC), Okes introduced a process for helping committees develop metrics that defined how their work fit into the overall organizational mission and strategic objectives. This was guided by an organizational model that showed how committees related to TNCPE categories. To help provide a high-level picture, Okes trained several committees and staff in TNCPE criteria and how it fit into their specific roles.  

"It was great to see the level of commitment each committee had in developing the metrics," said Okes. "By using quality skills in a wide range of applications, it helped the organization perform better and share information effectively."

Due to the work of Duke Okes and many others, CareSpark won the TNCPE Level II award for two consecutive years (2006-2007). This award recognizes organizations that have demonstrated progress in identifying and putting in place key process improvements that are directly attributable to a fact-based improvement process. Moving forward, CareSpark is striving to create an information system that will provide real-time information to doctors while they are with patients--reducing medical costs and improving the quality of healthcare.

If you use your passion for quality at work, in your personal life, or in volunteer efforts to make a difference in people's lives, we'd like to include your story in our Quality for Life initiative. Please visit our Web site,

For more information about CareSpark, please visit