Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about the APCC Program, the methodology and framework and how particpating in the Program will impact you.

Click on each question for the answer.

The APCC Program

What is a Collaborative?
What is the Collaborative Program?
What is a wave?
What topic areas does the APCC Program focus on?
What are the benefits of using the Collaborative methodology?
What does the Program aim to achieve?
What is the Collaborative Handbook ?
What is an Expert Reference Panel?

Improvement Measures

What are the Improvement Measures in the APCC Program?
How do we extract our improvement measures from our software program?

Practicalities of participating in the APCC

When do the Program waves start?
How do I participate in the APCC Program?
Will taking part in this Program add to our operating costs?
How much time will I need to commit to the APCC Program?
What are the minimum requirements of participating practices?
What kind of support would we get on the Program?
What have others achieved with a similar Program?
What kind of improvements have participants achieved?

Learning Workshops and Acticity Periods

What happens at an orientation event?
What happens at a learning workshop?
Who should attend the learning workshops?
Can different people attend the learning workshops?
What is an activity period?
How long is an activity period?

Model for Improvement

What is the Model for Improvement?
Where do we start? What changes should we test first?
What is a PDSA?
How long/big should a PDSA be?
How do we write a good plan?
How do we speed up our PDSA cycles?
How much data do we need to collect to ensure that a PDSA cycle works?
Is it necessary to document every step of a PDSA cycle?
We have done several PDSA cycles, but we don't see an improvement. What's wrong?
How do we ensure that one PDSA is linked to the next?
How do we know a change is an improvement?
Do we need to have an electronic means of capturing our data in PDSA cycles?

 

The APCC Program

What is a Collaborative?
A Collaborative is an improvement method that relies on the adaptation of existing knowledge to multiple settings to achieve a common aim. It consists of a series of learning workshops interspersed with activity periods during which measures common to the participating practices are used to track progress. It is user friendly and simple approach is effective because of the support and framework, which allow for protected time for participants to spend together solving problems as a team.

A Collaborative is not a research project, a set of conferences, or a passive exercise. It is about actually doing and improving.


What is the Collaborative Program?
The Australian Primary Care Collaboratives Program is funded by the Commonwealth of Australia to support Australian general practices deliver systematic and sustainable improvements in the quality of primary care they provide to their patients. It focuses on three areas: the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and access and care redesign.

The Collaborative Program is based on methodology designed originally for health care by the Institute for Health Care Improvement in Boston, Massachusetts, USA . The Improvement Foundation UK (formerly the National Primary Care Development team, NPDT), led by Sir John Oldham, adapted it for use in primary care in the UK in 2000, and has produced significant results. In the UK now, over 5,000 practices serving almost 32 million patients have taken part in the program since its inception, making it the largest primary care improvement program in the world. Our Program aims to replicate and expand on these improvements in general practice in Australia.

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What is a wave?
Attended by a GP and a staff member from each practice, a “wave” consists of an orientation session, followed by a series of learning workshops with activity periods in between, and ongoing data submission. A practice or health service is generally involved in an 18 month wave, however IF have also delivered waves over just 9 months.

Workshops will give you the opportunity to:

  • Hear about the pros and cons of changes implemented by other practices
  • Discuss aspects of the Program with topic experts
  • Share improvement ideas and experiences
  • Replicate successful changes made by other practices
  • Test your ideas back in your own practice
  • Learn practical and hands-on quality improvement skills to make changes with increased confidence.
  • Use the Improvement Model to introduce change and measure the effect of the changes you make.

Practices and health services that join the APCC Program participate in a 'wave'. A GP and another staff member from each practice come together with other participants for an orientation session followed by a series of learning workshops. Some of the these workshops are face-to-face, others are delivered virually, often via webinar. These events are interspersed with activity periods and ongoing data submission, are called a wave. The activity periods between learning workshops enable practices to test and implement change in their teams.


What topic areas does the APCC Program focus on?

The APCC Program currently focuses on the following topic areas:

  • Diabetes prevention
  • Diabetes mangement

Past Program topics include:

  • Secondary prevention of coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Access and care redesign
  • Closing the Gap
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Chronic Disease Prevention and Self Management

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What are the benefits of using the Collaborative methodology?
The Collaborative methodology uses knowledge about what already works rather than trying out new ideas through research or pilot studies. It uses a change management method that is designed to identify where a change actually leads to an improvement. Changes are tested sequentially in small cycles so they are rapid and manageable. The results of such changes are measured so that the improvement can be demonstrated.


What does the Program aim to achieve?
The APCC Program has three broad aims:  

  • To improve clinical outcomes and reduce lifestyle risk factors
  • To help maintain good health for those with chronic conditions
  • To promote a culture of quality improvement in primary health care


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What is the Collaborative Handbook?
The Collaborative Handbook is a practical guide developed by the Improvement Foundation Australia (IFA) to support practices during the APCC Program. It combines evidence-based guidance with practical examples drawn from the field. In the Handbook, you will find change ideas and change principles in each topic area which have been formulated and agreed to by the Expert Reference Panels.


What is an Expert Reference Panel?
Each Program topic has an Expert Reference Panel (ERP). Each ERPconsists of topic area experts who seek to:

  • Establish the aim for the topic area
  • Identify key principles that underlie any improvement in each topic area
  • Identify, where possible, successful strategies for change in each area (change principles)
  • Suggest practical ideas for change in each area that will generate significant improvement (change ideas)
  • Suggest measures that will assist teams in assessing their progress (improvement measures)
  • There is an Expert Reference Panel in each topic area

Click here to find out more about the Expert Reference Panel chairs.

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Improvement Measures

What are the improvement measures in the Collaborative Program?
There are several improvement measures in each topic area. 


How do we extract our improvement measures from our software program?
This depends on the clinical software that you are using. There are data 'extraction tools' that are avaliable at no cost to APCC participants. The data extraction tools are designed to work with a number of clinical software programs. New participants are informed about data extraction options upon joining the Program. For more information about data extraction and submission to the IF web portal, click here to vist the web portal page on this website.

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Practicalities of participating in the APCC

When do the Program waves start?
Click here to be taken to the Events page.

How do I participate in the Collaborative Program?
To participate in the Program, contact your Medicare Local or Division. Alternatively you can contact Improvement Foundation (IF) to register your interest. Contact IF.

Will taking part in this Program add to our operating costs?
Practices and health services need to allocate time and resources for staff to work on the Program, and to attend the Orientation event and Learning Workshops. Participating practices and health services will receive an incentive payment, which is distributed through your Medicare Local or Division.

How much time do I need to commit to the APCC Program?
Participating practices and health services have to set aside dedicated time each week to work on the Program. Practices and health services would also need to allocate time for one GP and one practice staff member to attend the orientation event and learning workshops. For more detail on how much time you will need to commit to the Program click here.

What are the minimum requirements of participating practices and health services?
The Program's minimum requirements are that participants:

  • Undertake work in each of the wave's topic areas
  • Submit at least one PDSA cycle every month (most practices submit more than this)

To achieve significant success within the Program, participants should be committed to:

  • Set aside dedicated time each week to work on the Program
  • Attend and actively participate in the Learning Workshops
  • Submit a PDSA every month in each topic
  • Collect and report data, and test and implement changes by using the PDSA cycles.

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What kind of support would we get on the Program?
The APCC Program team and your Medicare Local or Division are a key resource and source of support for participating practices. Your Medicare Local or Division will provide hands-on support and guidance on the collection of measures, submission of data, and implementation of change principles and ideas. The APCC Program provides a detailed handbook, monthly feedback graphs, and maintains a website and web portal. The national Collaborative network provides a resource of knowledge and experience for practices to tap into. Participating practices and health services are also eligible for practice incentive payments distributed through their Medicare Local or Division .


What have others achieved with a similar Program?
This Program builds on the success of work already done in the US and the UK . In the UK , the Improvement Foundation (formerly the National Primary Care Development team, NPDT) reports that over 5,000 practices serving almost 32 million patients have taken part in their program since it began in 2000, making it the largest primary care health improvement program in the world. The APCC Program aims to help general practices and health services in Australia achieve significant improvements in the primary care they provide to their patients.

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What kind of improvements have other participants achieved?
By working with the Program, these are some of the measurable improvements in patient care other practices and health services have achieved, so imagine the significant changes you can expect.

  • Improved patient outcomes through better management of diabetes and coronary heart disease
  • Changes in service delivery to improve efficiency within the practice
  • Increased best practice care through better use of information systems (both medical and business systems)
  • Shift from reactive individual patient care to proactive population based care
  • Increased use of protocols and procedures to improve practice operations and efficiency
  • Enhanced clinical reporting and functionality (i.e. data cleaning to produce valid registers and reports)

 

Learning Workshops and Activity Periods

What happens at an Orientation event?
Practices and health services attend an Orientation event before the first Learning Workshop. Participants are provided with an introduction to collaboratives and how they operate, and details are given of the practical aspects of participating in the APCC Program. 

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What happens at a learning workshop?
The learning workshops provide a supportive environment for sharing learning and for formulating plans for action. At these events, participants learn how to implement the improvement methodology and work in local Medicare Local or Division teams with a Medicare Local or Division staff member to learn about the Improvement Model cycles that they will carry out in their practices and health services. There are opportunities to hear from experts about quality improvement and the evidence in the wave topic areas. Within the learning workshops, there are smaller facilitated breakout sessions where participants have an opportunity to learn from other practices and health services about improvements they have made in their own settings.


Who should attend the Learning Workshops?
We recommend that one GP and one practice staff member attend each of the learning workshops. These should be staff who are in a position to influence and initiate change within their organisations.

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Can different people attend the Learning Workshops?
For best results and continuity, we recommend the same people attend all learning workshops.


What is an Activity Period?
In the APCC Program framework, activity periods are scheduled between and after learning workshops for practices to deliver real and sustainable improvements. In an activity period, participants test and implement their change ideas through using rapid time limited Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles. They also submit monthly measures in each topic area to track their progress.

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How long is an Activity Period?
The Activity Periods between Learning Workshops are between 4 weeks and three months long. Practices and health services continue to work using PDSA cycles and submit data after the final Learning Workshop to track their progress.

 

Model for Improvement

What is the Model for Improvement?
For more information about the Model for Improvement click here to be taken to the Model for Improvement page on this website.

Where do we start? Which changes should we test first?
You will begin planning for change in the learning workshops. When you return to your practice or health service, brainstorm ideas with the team, and talk to your team to get their input. Start with the first part of the Model for Improvement, and ask the three fundamental questions:

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What is a PDSA?
A PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) is a small-scale, rapid-cycle test of change. It is used to determine if a change idea is one that will be beneficial before implementation on a wider scale. The PDSA cycle is a proven process intended to improve the quality of care at an accelerated pace.

How long/big should a PDSA cycle be?
If your PDSA cycle is large, it can be too complex and absorbs time and energy. Cycles should be short but significant; test a big idea on a small scale and in a short time frame (for example, on Dr Well's patients next Friday) so that you can identify ways to improve or change the idea.

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How do we write a good plan?
A plan should be time-specific and measurable. It is important that all team members agree on the plan and that the practice allocates the people and resources necessary to accomplish it. You will need to specify clearly the plan for change and the way in which it is to be carried out in order to test changes successfully.

How do we speed up our PDSA cycles?
Make sure your PDSA cycles are small and manageable, so that you are able to make incremental changes. As you try out changes on a small scale, and use the many consecutive PDSA cycles to build up information about how effective the change is, you can then implement it as part of your system.

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How much data do we need to collect to ensure that a PDSA cycle works?
You need to collect enough data to see if an improvement occurred.

Is it necessary to document every step of a PDSA cycle?
Yes. Documenting all four steps of a PDSA cycle - Plan, Do, Study, Act - has clear benefits:

  • It helps teams get into the habit of doing all the steps.
  • It is often the only way to follow the thread of the improvement journey.
  • It also helps in communicating success and creating a coherent demonstration of progress for the future.
  • Documenting is also useful for later review, comparison, and sharing with others.

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We have done several PDSA cycles, but we don't see an improvement. What's wrong?
Use the "Study" phase of a cycle to reflect on what was learned from the test and refer back to the three fundamental questions. Try brainstorming more ideas.

How do we ensure that one PDSA cycle is linked to the next?
Ensure that the "Act" phase of one cycle is connected to the "Plan" phase of the next one. Schedule specific times for reflecting on what was learned in carrying out cycles.

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How do we know a change is an improvement?
Without measurement it is impossible to know whether you have improved. Measures are a means for practices and health services to tell if the changes you are making actually leads to improvement, so measurement is a critical part of testing and implementing change.

Think about how you want things to be different when you have implemented your change and agree in which data you need to collect to measure it. You can do this in terms of the way in which your results or outcomes might be different, how the service that your patients receive will be better, or how your processes might change.

Do we need to have an electronic means of capturing our data in PDSA cycles?
Use the resources available to you. It is not feasible to update your computer system for a short-term project; paper and pencil are good enough. It is possible to achieve a great deal of change and improvement using available resources and just enough data.

Last Updated 18 October 2012