Kaiser Permanente’s Journey to Create a Culture of
Learning Explored in in December Issue of Joint
Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety

(Oak Brook, Ill. – December 1, 2011) Becoming a learning organization is the focus of a
new article published in the December 2011 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on
Quality and Patient Safety™.  The article is the fourth and final in a series by Kaiser
Permanente, which documents its five-year performance improvement journey.

The article, “Kaiser Permanente’s Performance Improvement System, Part 4:
Creating a Learning Organization,” describes and reflects on the effectiveness of
Kaiser Permanente’s strategy for creating a systemic capacity for continuous
improvement that characterizes a learning organization.

The authors, led by Lisa Schilling, R.N., M.P.H., vice president, National Health Care
Performance Improvement and Execution Strategy, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.,
Oakland, California, and a member of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and
Patient Safety’s Editorial Advisory Board, discuss how a health care organization can
sustain best-in-class quality performance in a rapidly changing environment. They
explain how organizations can develop structures and processes that facilitate the
acquisition and sharing of knowledge.

The authors identify six “building blocks” for achieving a learning organization:
• Real-time sharing of meaningful performance data
• Formal training in problem-solving methodology
• Workforce engagement and informal knowledge sharing
• Leadership structures, beliefs and behaviors
• Internal and external benchmarking
• Technical knowledge sharing

According to the authors, putting each building block into place requires multiple
complex strategies – all of which combine top-down and bottom-up approaches.

“We encountered challenges at Kaiser Permanente when implementing our strategy to
create a system centered on continuous performance improvement. By using the
identified building blocks to become a learning organization, we have been able to help
our workforce understand how to test, implement and share practices to achieve higher
quality care and service.  I believe other organizations, by following the same principles,
can successfully transition to a learning culture,” says Schilling.

An accompanying editorial, “Building Fundamental Performance Improvement
Capabilities: The Kaiser Permanente Experience,” by Kathleen Goonan, M.D.,
associate in health policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, urges readers not
to dismiss the Kaiser Permanente series as irrelevant, in view of its integrated delivery
structure or vast size, to their own organizations: “Each of these four articles provides a
distinctive lens on effective approaches to overcoming challenges that face every
health care organization.” The authors provide fundamental lessons and identify
common themes about building high-performing improvement capabilities into an
organization’s culture and operations.

The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, published monthly by Joint
Commission Resources, features peer-reviewed research and case studies on
improving quality and safety in health care organizations. To subscribe to The Joint
Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, please call JCR Customer Service
toll-free at 800.746.6578, or visit www.jcrinc.com.
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