High quality patient care is central to sustaining a safe and reliable healthcare system.  With this in mind, the Patient Care Quality Review Board introduced legislation in 2008, requiring all six BC Health Authorities to establish a Patient Care Quality Office (PCQO) to receive and track quality of care complaints, as well as requests for information and compliments. The BC PSLS Complaints Module is used by all Health Authority PCQO’s for this purpose.


VIHA PCQO Team: Back row is Ben Brzezynski, Robert Awai, and Carole Sundborg; Front row is Chrystine Greene, Yvonne Zwaag, Jennifer Aitken, Denise Paul, and Xela Rysstad (Missing: Kim Banfield)

In late 2011, the PCQO at Island Health (VIHA) began to look for ways to standardize their file management processes.  While the Review Board’s legislation identified what kind of information the PCQO should collect and monitor, the Island Health PCQO team felt that they needed a more standardized approach to facilitate their work and, more importantly, ensure that the information they were sharing with Island Health clinical programs was complete, consistent and accurate.

“The legislation certainly helped to guide us in our work, but the BC PSLS Complaints Module is very extensive and we wanted to optimize the system fully,” says Robert Awai, Officer.

“We felt it was important for all our PCQO staff to follow the same data management standards so our data would be more useful to Island Health clinical programs.”

In early 2012, the Island Health PCQO team worked together to develop internal data standards.  Their priorities were to create a standardized model that would allow them to continue to meet the Review Board’s reporting requirements, and reap the full benefits of the BC PSLS analytics tools (SAP Business Intelligence), while aligning with the practices of other Health Authority PCQO’s. By fall 2012, the Island Health PCQO data standards were established and put into practice.

Carole Sundborg, Leader, Island Health PCQO, describes their new approach, saying,

“At Island Health, only PCQO staff use the Complaints Module. That keeps care quality issues centralized and, with our new standardized data system, we can monitor how major issues have impacted patient care – today and down the road.”

Carole goes on to note that, “The two most important aspects of our data standards are the complaint ‘Date Chain’ and the complaint ‘Subject’. This data enables us to track progress throughout the different stages of complaint resolution and accurately track the complaint subjects in aggregate form.”

Island Health’s PCQO Associate, a role unique to Island Health, has been integral throughout the development of their new standardized system.  “I focus on PCQO process improvement, data management and liaising with clinical program areas to help them manage their complaint volume,” says Ben Brzezynski, Associate.  “Since we’ve implemented our data standards, we collaborate more effectively as a team because any one of our PCQO staff can review complaints, ensure all data fields are completed correctly and we can share files back and forth.”

Today, the Island Health PCQO provides 35 program areas with detailed graphical reports that highlight program-specific complaint data and complaint resolution time frames. With this information in hand on a regular basis, patient care quality complaints are at the forefront of Island Health’s Quality Councils and executive leaders.

“It’s been about a year since we’ve established our standardized approach, so this is all fairly new to Island Health staff,” says Carole. “But everyone is talking about this now.  They want to know more and dig deeper into what PCQO reports can tell us about the quality of care at Island Health.  This is very important to us and we’re always looking for ways to improve patient care and safety.”

Carole says Island Health has been proactive in matching BC PSLS data to the complaint resolution process defined by the Patient Care Quality Review Board Act (PCQRBA):

  • Standardization of the ‘Date Chain’, ‘Sector’ and ‘Subjects’ fields have been finalized internally by Island Health and shared with the provincial Patient Care Quality Data Subcommittee (PCQDS).
  • Island Health has matched the five ‘Date Chain’ dates (Acknowledged, Actioned, Response, Holding, Replied) to stages in its care quality review process. These five dates match the reporting standards of BC PSLS Central Office and track compliance with the PCQRBA timelines.
  • The Island Health PCQO has standardized its ‘Subjects’ documentation so that each complaint has a defined subject, sub-subject, location, facility and program area. This enables Island Health to clearly associate each complaint with a specific accountability area in the organization.

“For us, the biggest benefit is having the ability to pull together reports that keep Island Health leadership informed of what’s going on.”

The Island Health PCQO team continues to work closely with all Health Authority PCQO’s and the Ministry of Health to standardize, learn from and share ideas for how to improve patient care.  Indeed, their collaborative efforts are helping to identify areas for improvement, which will undoubtedly lead to higher quality care in Island Health and all over BC.

The VIHA PCQO team would like to acknowledge Jeff McLaren, Leader, and Angela Jurj, Coordinator, Quality Systems and Processes, for their support in this work.

Carole Sundborg is Leader, Robert Awai is Officer and Ben Brzezynski is Associate with the Island Health PCQO. For more information on their vision to standardize PCQO processes at Island Health, please contact Carole Carole.Sundborg@viha.ca or Robert Robert.Awai@viha.ca

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