What you'll learn

  • Why improvement science is valuable in health, health care, and daily life.

  • Why understanding a system is critical to improving a process.

  • The value of conducting iterative tests of change.

  • How an improvement project evolves into reliable, standard work.

  • How to design and execute a personal improvement project, including an aim, measures, and tests of change.

  • How interprofessional teams come together to do successful improvement work.

Course description

Developed through a collaboration between HarvardX and the Institute for Healthcare ImprovementPH 556x: Practical Improvement Science in Health Care: A roadmap for getting results will provide learners with the valuable skills and simple, well-tested tools they need to translate promising innovations or evidence into practice. A group of expert faculty will explore a scientific approach to improvement — a practical, rigorous methodology that includes a theory of change, measurable aims, and iterative, incremental small tests of change to determine if improvement concepts can be implemented effectively in practice. Faculty will present this science through the lens of improving health and health care, but will also share examples of how improvement can (and does) influence our daily lives.

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Each week, learners will dive into engaging, interactive materials and relevant resources to start building an improvement toolkit that will serve them long after the seven-week course ends. Learners will immediately put their new skills to the test as they work each week on a personal improvement project that will show them the power of the science that has improved healthcare — and other industries — around the world for decades.

The only prerequisite for the course is curiosity, but the reward is a lifetime of improvement.

In support of improving patient care, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing education for the healthcare team. This activity has also been approved by the National Association for Healthcare Quality for CPHQ CE credit. If you are interested in earning CEUs for this course, please visit www.IHI.org/PH556X to see the options and steps required prior to enrolling or taking any action on edX.

Course Outline

Lesson 1: What is the Science of Improvement?

Lesson 2: Applying the Model for Improvement

Lesson 3: Introduction to Measurement for Improvement

Lesson 4: Practical Tools that Support Improvement (including a seven-piece toolkit)

Lesson 5: Using Systems Principles to Spread Improvement

Lesson 6: Working within Interprofessional Teams

Lesson 7: Implementing Sustainable Improvement Work


Chief Scientific Officer, Emeritus, and Senior Fellow Institute for Healthcare Improvement Professor of Pediatrics Harvard Medical School Professor of Epidemiology Harvard School of Public Health
President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)

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