Students and alumni from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia, along with students from other UofSC schools, recently completed the Quality Improvement Education and Systems Training program, also known as QUEST. The program provides for interprofessional collaboration in experiential settings to promote quality improvement methods through education and practice.
Students who are in their final year of health science education develop a project, collect and analyze data, and present their findings at Discover USC.
Christopher Goodman, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at the School of Medicine Columbia, is lead organizer for the program and says the program is intentionally interprofessional in nature.
“We want the students interacting with different professions and learning together,” he says. “They are really our secret ‘change agent.’ They join as learners and they may not realize they are truly helping our health care system learn too.”
Miranda Hannah, a student with the Class of 2022 from the School of Medicine, says quality improvement is of growing importance in the clinical world for all roles in health care. Her project focused on linking newly diagnosed chronic Hepatitis C cases to treatment (LINCT), in an effort to increase rates of screening for Hepatitis C, a serious virus that can be asymptomatic for most of its early lifespan.
“One of my favorite things about QUEST was being able to see the different disciplines come together and work for the common good of the patient,” Hannah says. “I learned about different techniques used in quality improvement and put some of those to practice myself through this program. I know that my experience with QUEST is something that I will be able to draw on wherever I end up in my future career.”
Kevin Crowley, a School of Medicine student in the Class of 2021, worked on the I-ACT Project to create an inpatient consulting service for patients struggling with opioid addiction. Given his prior career in business intelligence within a statewide health system, Crowley helped build and implement the analytics platform required to measure the outcome metrics and identify areas of opportunity for improvement.
“We certainly had many challenges initially, such as finding the specific diagnosis codes needed to define our patient population, developing the metrics needed to measure our outcomes accurately, and building relationships with the right stakeholders to assist with the project,” Crowley says.
“Thankfully with the leadership of Dr. Goodman, Dr. Ray, and Dr. Prest, we were able to meet our goals of sustainably launching the project, developing an analytics platform, identifying areas for future improvement, and engaging with the vital stakeholders in the medical and public health community of Columbia and South Carolina as a whole.”
Crowley says QUEST provides a more formal learning process about the science of QI as well as a unique project for each member to contribute and add their own brand of expertise to.
“The broad array of medical professionals and faculty members that volunteer their time to contribute to the learning process creates a rich and intellectually stimulating environment for QI learning,” he says. “QUEST is an excellent learning opportunity and I would encourage all aspiring medical professionals to get involved in a QI project in their area of interest.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students presented their posters virtually this year. Eight teams presented on topics such as creating an inpatient addiction consult team to increasing screening rates for HIV and Hepatitis C. Students from the School of Medicine included Hannah, Crowley, Elizabeth Davis and Shannon Howard. Faculty included Divya Ahuja, M.D., clinical associate professor of internal medicine, and James Cook, M.D., clinical assistant professor of Ob/Gyn, along with Goodman.
You can view the archived posters online to see the outstanding work that has been produced.