In September 2005 the Minimal Data Set for Evaluating Quitlines (MDS)
was implemented in North America with technical assistance offered by NAQC. The MDS offers a standard approach to evaluating quitlines and makes possible the collection of consistent data across quitlines for improved analyses of a variety of variables relevant to their success. In many ways the implementation of the MDS was the quitline community’s first step toward a focus on improving quality.
In 2007 NAQC assessed the extent to which North American quitlines had in fact implemented the MDS, possible item revisions and areas in which NAQC might support quitlines in using the MDS (See October 2008 NAQC report Realizing Opportunities: Implementation Assessment of the Minimal Data Set in North America
.) While this evaluation found a high degree of implementation of intake and follow-up items, there was considerable variation in how individual items were implemented across quitlines. In addition, the assessment identified a lack of standardization of follow-up protocols across quitlines. This variation in follow-up poses considerable challenges to standardized reporting of program outcomes and speaks directly to the importance of the Quality Improvement Initiative.
The Quality Improvement Initiative is an extension of these important steps to encourage standard data collection across quitlines. As a community we need to attend to the fact that MDS follow-up questions, as well as other outcome measures, are being addressed, measured and reported differently by quitlines and the impact these differences have on quality improvement activities. NAQC is hopeful an ongoing emphasis on quality improvement will result in the creation of standard methods for data collection and reporting across quitlines, and is prepared to provide products, tools, guidance and assistance to support its members to this end.
Ultimately the Quality Improvement Initiative will make individual quitline efforts more meaningful by creating standards that allow quitlines to work collaboratively toward measuring quality and developing a shared understanding of how to improve quality.