Understanding PDSA cycles

The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is a 'trial-and-learning' method that allows you to temporarily test and evaluate ideas for change.

It is a four step process that takes you through developing a plan to test the change (Plan), carrying out the change (Do), observing and learning from the consequences (Study), and determining what refinements should be made to the change to deliver the desired affect (Act).

LifeQI enables you to run the full cycle on a single page under the 'PDSAs' menu option of your project.

Four Stages to PDSA Cycle

Plan (planning the change that you want to implement)

Define what and when the change is going to be made, and what you will measure:

  • Link the PDSA cycle directly to the change idea that you will be testing
  • Define the overall objective of the test.
  • When - ensure that the test is time-bound and that you know exactly when you want to begin the test
  • Where - which department is the test going to be carried out in? Is it going to be tested on just one patient?
  • Who - who is coordinating the project?

If necessary, list out the tasks that need to be carried out both before and during the test:

  • What - State what tasks need to be completed. For example, creating and handing out data collection forms
  • When - when is the due date for each task?
  • Where - where will the task be carried out?
  • Who - who will complete the task? You can assign a team member to each task. Learn how to plan a PDSA cycle in Life

Finally, make a prediction of what you expect to happen when you run the cycle.

Do (temporarily implement the change and record your findings)

Carry out the change in a controlled, localised setting and gather data to allow evaluation of the results.

Study (evaluating the results of the test)

In Life QI you can quickly and effectively evaluate your data by plotting it into either a Run Chart or an SPC (Statistical Process Control) chart under the 'Measures & Charts' menu option. Read more about understanding charts.

Act (acting on what has been learned from the test)

The idea may be altered slightly and turned into another PDSA cycle or scrapped altogether. You may consider implementing the change permanently and rolling it out elsewhere if it proves to be stable. Find out how to create a PDSA cycle on Life QI.