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The Front Line
The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair

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Continuous Improvement: Feedback for our Study Chairs (Principal Investigators)

Jun 12, 2015 - Quality assurance efforts have always been critical to SWOG's success, and I've devoted a number of my Front Line columns to the topic over the past (almost) two years (e.g., see here and here). Of course, to continuously improve quality, we need to be able to measure how we're doing, and plans for increased monitoring of and subsequent improvement in quality were prominent in our NCTN and NCORP grant applications. Not surprisingly, these proposed efforts were well received by the NCI.

Our longstanding and vigorous audit program is the heart of our quality efforts, but we have complemented that program with a number of more recent initiatives. For example, at every Group Meeting we conduct mid-term 360-degree reviews of several of our Committee Chairs, reviews that are proving to be a valuable tool in helping us assess strengths and challenges. Other sources of feedback include Group Meeting evaluation surveys, and even this blog, where I regularly solicit your input on matters important to the Group (and you regularly respond!). Education is a critical element in the assess/improve/assess loop, so as you know, we've hired a SWOG Training Manager and have launched an online Learning Management System.

The next group of critical players in SWOG work we want to bring into the quality improvement monitoring process includes our Study Chairs -- aka Study Coordinators, aka Study PIs. We will start a pilot review program this month to give Study Chairs an initial baseline report and to solicit feedback on the monitoring process itself. At first, we'll run these reports every six months, with an eye toward conducting them quarterly once any kinks have been smoothed out.

The reports will assess the three primary components of a Study Chair's job:

  1. Communication: How conscientiously and thoroughly does the Study Chair follow up on queries from sites, the Statistical Center, Data Coordinators, and Protocol Coordinators?
  2. Review of monthly study reports: How consistently does the Study Chair appraise monthly reports on adverse events, serious adverse events, and treatment summaries?
  3. Timely completion of study coordinator forms: How quickly does the Study Chair complete evaluation forms generated by the study's Data Coordinator?

What will we do with these reports once we have them? They won't be used to conduct a witch-hunt! Rather, they'll primarily serve as a tool for Study Chairs themselves, who can use them as part of their own self-process of continual review and improvement. We will also use them to help keep our research Committee Chairs apprised of the status of the clinical trials being conducted in their area, and, importantly, as a data source when reporting on grants and applying for new grants.

We at SWOG are always trying to improve quality. I see the Study Chair review not as a silly hoop intended to create more paperwork but as another step forward. I welcome your quality thoughts. Pun intended!


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