Relevance for Public Health
Originally, the PDSA approach was developed by the Associates in Process Improvement as a general framework. The PDSA cycle can be used, for example, to optimize the implementation of an automated cancer screening outreach program as part of standard health care (See Supplementary resources: "Applying the plan-do-study-act (PDSA) approach in pragmatic research with safety net health centers."
The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) framework is a model for testing change to evaluate whether a series of decisions or activities have resulted in improvement.
The PDSA framework, also known as the Model for Improvement, is at the core of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's approach to quality improvement (IHI-QI).
The PDSA framework is based on experiential learning and guiding purposeful action. It outlines three clarifying questions and the PDSA cycle. The PDSA framework is intended to help implement and evaluate a desired change. The process typically involves conducting several different "tests of change" followed by systematically documenting, optimizing, re-testing, and re-evaluating the iterative PDSA cycles (those that are predicted to lead to sustained improvement) using the PDSA worksheet as a tool.
The PDSA cycle includes the following stages:
- Plan: Develop a plan to test the desired change
- Do: Carry out the test
- Study: Observe and learn from the consequences
- Act: Determine what modifications should be made to the test
Though the PDSA is at the core of the IHI-QI it is not synonymous with its efforts. Other notable quality improvement methods include the method of "Lean." A document that compares Lean and quality improvement is provided here.
Accessing the Method/Tool
Implementing the Method/Tool
Time for Participation/Completion
Information not available
Additional Resources and/or Skills Needed for Implementation
Steps for Using Method/Tool
The PDSA framework outlines an algorithm that is designed to help ‘achieve an aim’ at any scale. As users work through the PDSA steps, the algorithm can be used as a tool for gaining practical knowledge. Moreover, it helps users to dissect their perceived understanding of how to accelerate improvement in clinical health care settings while also allowing immediate, sequential testing of changes.
The main ideas of the PDSA approach are as follows:
- Questions are at the root of testing change.
- Success of small changes can lead to wide-spread implementation of change.
- Informed action drives improved results.
Who is involved
Implementing this framework could involve program leads, project leads, managers and staff.
Conditions for Use
Evaluation and Measurement Characteristics
Information not available
Associates in Process Improvement
Method of Development
Institute for Healthcare Improvement
20 University Road, 7th Floor
Cambridge, USA 02138
Phone: (617) 301-4800 and toll-tree: (866) 787-0831
Fax: (617) 301-4848
These summaries are written by the NCCMT to condense and to provide an overview of the resources listed in the Registry of Methods and Tools and to give suggestions for their use in a public health context. For more information on individual methods and tools included in the review, please consult the authors/developers of the original resources.