QI Innovator Award Winner – Sara Warren

Monday, June 15, 2015 – It is our pleasure to honor Sara Warren, from the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County, as a public health QI Innovator. Congratulations Sara!

What makes Sara Warren a QI Innovator?

Sara Warren serves as Chair of the Quality Council at the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County (DOH-Seminole). In this capacity, she led the redesign of the council’s charter, which resulted in a Best Practice acknowledgement for policy design by the state office. Sara has used her training in the Kaizen and DMAIC (Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) approaches to spearhead many QI projects within her organization. As the leader of her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project team, she completed a 6-month in-depth analysis of DOH-Seminole’s clinical cycle times and identified root causes for process waste. Her team then eliminated redundancies and developed a more streamlined process. Sara also led DOH-Seminole’s first-ever Kaizen event and has since ensured active continuation of event outcomes and next-step opportunities. Sara engages staff members in the QI process and supports their active participation in projects, not only by meetings and training but also with a “get out there and in the field” approach. Sara meets routinely with both internal and external clients to ensure that project targets accurately represent the needs of the stakeholder groups. Recently, Sara helped to lead a communication blitz where electronic surveys and physically posted comment boards were reviewed with stakeholder groups during the last year of DOH-Seminole QI. These posters and surveys asked for recommendations regarding next year’s project ideas and ways to continue to support a QI culture. By routinely presenting documented project information, both locally and on a wider scale, Sara has communicated the benefits of QI to a variety of stakeholders.

We asked Sara to share some insights regarding challenges encountered, lessons learned, and advice about public health QI. Here's what she had to say!

Q: Describe one challenge you have encountered in conducting QI in public health and how you worked to overcome that challenge.

A: As public health representatives, we understand the importance of time. We are often asked to wear a multitude of hats and ensure that the day-to-day needs of our organization are met. We want to resolve an issue and move forward to the next hot topic at hand. We are problem solvers. Unfortunately, this approach can sometimes lead us down the path of thinking we know the answer before we really understand the root cause generating the problem. Developing a truthful process map and utilizing straightforward data help to identify the big waste issues and areas in which to best focus our attentions. Keeping an open mind and making decisions based on validated information ensure that we truly focus on a root cause and not a symptom.

Q: What is one key lesson you have learned in your experience implementing public health QI initiatives?

A: There are many components to a QI initiative. Ensuring that you have a fluid and realistic action plan can help to set priorities, secure accountability, and stay on track. Keeping an open line of communication with your stakeholder groups and a high level of transparency regarding where the project stands help to gain support and trust in your project. Consistently reviewing your action plan with your stakeholder groups can help you achieve that trust and support. Stakeholders are able to see what really needs to occur to meet project goals and what you have accomplished so far in trying to reach your objective.

Q: What advice would you give to public health practitioners who are new to QI?

A: QI is essential to ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of public health practices. It is an exciting arena that can really produce results for you and your organization. At times, it can be overwhelming, with thousands of tools at your disposal and various methods to use. My advice… keep calm, stay flexible, and find the path that works best for you.

Congratulations, Sara! Thank you for sharing these wonderful insights, for your demonstrated leadership in public health QI, and for being a member of the PHQIX community!

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