Glossary

Health care language isn’t always the most straightforward. In fact, sometimes it can feel like a foreign language. But there’s no need to worry! Our new glossary provides simple explanations of the health care and improvement work terminology and you may encounter as a member of PVN.

The glossary will allow you to better navigate engagement opportunities, and may provide some useful information that helps you communicate your health care experiences. It can even be used on the go to look up methods or phrases as you encounter them! The glossary is mobile-friendly, enabling patient partners to use this resource in real time to better navigate engagement opportunities and help communicate your health care experiences.

If you come across terminology or methods that aren’t in our glossary and you think they would be helpful to other patient partners, please let us know!

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  • 5 Whys
    A question-asking method used to explore the relationships between cause and effect underlying a problem to identify the root cause.
  • Accountability
    An obligation or willingness to accept responsibility. It’s an expectation of being responsible toward others.
  • Acute Care
    Usually delivered in a hospital-like setting, acute care is the type of care that your health care team will provide if you are sick or injured, or recovering from a treatment such as surgery. When you are admitted to an acute care hospital to receive care, you are usually called an “inpatient”.
  • Adverse events
    Harm to a patient, structure or function and/or any negative effect from that.
  • Aim statement
    A concise and measurable declaration of the improvement goal.  It includes what, where, by how much and by when. An example: “This is the third wave of Clear (which used to be known as CLeAR: A Call for Less Antipsychotics in Residential Care), and this time we’re focused on supporting care(...)
  • Ambulatory Care
    All types of health services that are provided on an outpatient basis, in contrast to services provided in the home or to persons who are inpatients. While many inpatients may be ambulatory, the term ambulatory care usually implies that the patient must travel to a location to receive services(...)
  • Assisted Living
    A broad range of residential care services that includes some assistance with activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living but does not include nursing services such as administration of medication. Assisted living facilities and in-home living care stress(...)
  • Attachment
    Recognizes the importance of continuous doctor- patient relationships and aims to connect an individual with a primary health care provider who provides him/her with comprehensive, ongoing care.
  • Bar charts
    Visual displays that show data that has been categorized and counted. It is used to compare different categories.
  • BC Patient Safety & Quality Council
    Created in 2008 by the BC provincial government, the BCPSQC provides leadership across BC’s health care system to efforts that support improvements in the quality of care.
  • BCPSQC
    Created in 2008 by the BC provincial government, the BCPSQC provides leadership across BC’s health care system to efforts that support improvements in the quality of care.
  • Cause and effect diagram (Ishikawa/Fishbone)
    A technique to organize and display ideas about what may be the root cause of a problem, designed to encourage innovative thinking (but not thinking about solutions, only potential causes).
  • CEAN
    CEAN is a group of members of the public who support patient and public involvement in health service planning and decision-making at Vancouver Coastal Health.
  • Change
    To make something different.  See “Improvement” for contrast.
  • Charter
    A documented plan to guide the work of an improvement team. A Quality Improvement Charter details the following: What is the problem currently? What are we trying to accomplish (aim, goals)? How will we know that a change is an improvement (measures, data)? What changes can we(...)
  • CHC
    CHCs provide a wide range of health services which may include prenatal, postpartum, health promotion, disease and injury prevention, bereavement services, communicable disease and school health, immunization and many other community care public health and wellness programs.
  • Checklist
    A list of things to be done, required items, or things to consider. Checklists are often used as reminders. In quality improvement, they are used to improve the safety of care, by ensuring that proven standards of care are met when used. They improve compliance with standards and decrease(...)
  • CME
    Continuing Medical Education for doctors.
  • Coaching
    An action-focused dialogue between two or more people that brings clarity to an issue and develops a plan of action for tackling it. It is a facilitated exploration of an issue through discussion, different perspectives and neutral feedback, as well as observations to allow for self-reflection(...)
  • Community Engagement Advisory Network
    CEAN is a group of members of the public who support patient and public involvement in health service planning and decision-making at Vancouver Coastal Health.
  • Community Health Centres
    CHCs provide a wide range of health services which may include prenatal, postpartum, health promotion, disease and injury prevention, bereavement services, communicable disease and school health, immunization and many other community care public health and wellness programs.
  • Competencies
    A set of skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours needed for a role.
  • Control charts
    A graph of data over time used to understand the type of variation in a process or outcomes.  There are three lines that are determined by historical data – average, upper control limit and lower control limit.
  • Culture
    When it comes to organizations, culture is sometimes described as “the way we do things around here.” It includes shared attitudes, beliefs, values and norms of behaviour, the way of making sense of the organization and the ways things are understood, judged and valued.
  • Data for improvement
    Statistical tools and techniques used to measure the impact of improvements. Some common tools for display and interpretation are the run charts, control charts, bar charts, Pareto diagrams, histograms and radar charts.
  • Divisions of Family Practice
    Divisions of Family Practice are community-based groups of family physicians working together to achieve common health care goals. There are currently 35 Divisions of Family Practice in BC that encompass more than 230 communities.
  • Doctors of BC (Formerly the BC Medical Association)
    The Doctors of BC is a professional body of doctors in British Columbia.
  • Electronic Medical Record/Electronic Health Record
    A computerized medical record that may include medical history, medication lists, lab results, etc.
  • Emergency Room/Emergency Department
    Emergency services are available 24 hours a day in regional and community hospitals across the province. Emergency departments are intended to care for individuals experiencing a health crisis or urgent medical condition. Examples of urgent medical conditions include but are not limited to:(...)
  • EMR/EHR
    A computerized medical record that may include medical history, medication lists, lab results, etc.
  • Engagement Opportunity
    Any process, event or committee in which patient partners are invited and supported to share their experiences and perspectives, with the goal of contributing to health care system improvement.
  • ER/ED
    Emergency services are available 24 hours a day in regional and community hospitals across the province. Emergency departments are intended to care for individuals experiencing a health crisis or urgent medical condition. Examples of urgent medical conditions include but are not limited to:(...)
  • Error
    Failure to carry out a planned action as intended, or application of an incorrect plan.
  • Family Physician or Family Practice Physician
    A doctor who specializes in family medicine and provides health care to people of all ages. Family Physicians are sometimes referred to as General Practitioners (GPs).
  • Feedback
    A situation when the results from an event will influence the next time the event takes place. When an event is part of a chain of cause-and-effect that forms a circuit or loop, it is said to "feed back" into itself.
  • Flow chart
    A type of diagram that shows the steps of a process and their order, by connecting them with arrows. There are several types of flowcharts, and sometimes the word is used interchangeably with Process Mapping (which is a flowchart, with some extras).
  • GPSC
    GPSC was formed in 2002 as a partnership between the Ministry and Doctors of BC. The Committee supports BC doctors by developing and implementing programs that improve job satisfaction for family doctors and primary health care for patients. (See also SCC, SSC)
  • Group Medical Visits
    Groups of patients get together with their doctor to learn about their condition, ask questions, share knowledge with other patients, and gain confidence in themselves and their ability to self- manage their chronic conditions.
  • Hazard
    A circumstance, agent or action that can lead to or increase risk.
  • HCP
    Any health authority staff member or similar stakeholder who, in the course of their work, seeks out, supports, and facilitates patient engagement opportunities. These HCPs are often the main point-of contact for patient partners taking part in engagement opportunities.
  • Health care
    Health care is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury and other physical and mental impairments. Health care refers to the work done in providing primary care, secondary care and tertiary care, as well as in home and community care and public health.
  • Health Care Partner
    Any health authority staff member or similar stakeholder who, in the course of their work, seeks out, supports, and facilitates patient engagement opportunities. These HCPs are often the main point-of contact for patient partners taking part in engagement opportunities.
  • High reliability organization
    An organization that has succeeded in avoiding catastrophes in an environment where normal accidents can be expected due to risk factors and complexity.
  • Histograms
    Graphs showing the distribution of continuous data (such as time).
  • Home and Community Care
    A range of health care and support services for individuals who have acute, chronic, palliative or rehabilitative health care needs. Home and community care services are designed to complement and supplement – but not replace – the efforts of individuals to care for themselves with the(...)
  • Human factors
    The scientific discipline concerning understanding interactions between humans and other elements of a system. It’s also a profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to how something is designed, with the goal of improving human well-being and overall system performance.
  • IAP2 – International Association of Public Participation
    IAP2 is the preeminent international organization advancing the practice of public participation. It created the well-known Spectrum of Public Participation.
  • Improvement
    Fundamental changes that alter how work or activity is done, producing visible, positive differences in results related to historical norms, with a lasting impact. Improvement always requires change, but not all changes will result in improvement.  Improvement comes from action. It means doing(...)
  • Infection control
    The discipline concerned with preventing infections associated with health care.
  • Information technology
    The use of computer systems to process data and derive meaning from it.
  • Innovation
    The process by which a novel idea or invention is put into practice, resulting in a change or improvement.
  • Inpatient
    If you are admitted to a hospital or health care facility to stay overnight (for at least one night or longer), so as to receive the care and treatment you need, you are called an “inpatient”.
  • Integrated Primary and Community Care
    Includes efforts to shift the management and delivery of health services so that clients receive a continuum of preventive and curative services, according to their needs over time and across different levels of the health system.
  • IPCC
    Includes efforts to shift the management and delivery of health services so that clients receive a continuum of preventive and curative services, according to their needs over time and across different levels of the health system.
  • Kaizen
    These are structured ways of bringing together people who are involved in all parts of the process of delivering a service in order to allow detailed sharing of all actions undertaken (the current state), the process and opportunities to define a future state, and the improvement action plan(...)
  • Lean
    A philosophy focused on maximizing value while reducing waste or inefficiency.
  • Long Term Residential Care
    Long-term residential care services provide 24-hour professional supervision and care in a protective, supportive environment for people who have complex care needs and can no longer be cared for in their own homes or in an assisted living residence.
  • Measures
    Measures are recorded observations which include quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (words, pictures, images) data.  There are three types of measures that can be used in improvement work: Outcome measures are related to the goal (aim statement) and show whether changes are leading to(...)
  • Medication error
    A preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, infection or other ailment.
  • Mentoring
    Giving advice and showing the way.
  • Mistake-proofing
    A mechanism that avoids mistakes by preventing, correcting or drawing attention to human errors as they occur. Examples: adding fields in a software program that will only accept certain formats (think postal codes); using dropdown menus instead of free-text, creating clear visual differences(...)
  • Mitigating factor
    An action or circumstance that prevents or moderates the progression of an incident from harming a patient, such as double-checking for certain types of errors.
  • Model for Improvement
    An approach to improvement which helps people develop, test and implement changes. The Model for Improvement includes three questions and a cycle for learning and improvement, called a PDSA Cycle. The three questions are: What are we trying to accomplish (aim, goals)? How will we know(...)
  • Monitoring
    To observe a situation for any changes that may occur over time.
  • Outpatient
    When a person is not admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay, but still comes to a physician’s office, clinic, hospital, day surgery office or other health care facility for diagnosis, treatment or to receive care, that patient is considered an “outpatient”. See also: inpatient
  • Palliative Care
    Care and supports for patients and families who are dealing with a progressive, life-limiting illness.
  • Pareto diagrams
    Pareto diagrams are bar charts with categories organized in decreasing order of frequency with the cumulative total represented by a line. A Pareto diagram is used to identify the areas of an organization or process that will deliver maximum benefit (“the significant few”) when improved.(...)
  • Pareto principle
    The concept that, in many situations, 80% of the outputs will be generated by only 20% of the inputs. For example, 20% of users will make 80% of the calls to a service desk.  Also known as the 80/20 rule.
  • Patient (with regards to Patient Engagement)
    A person who is receiving, has received, or has requested health care. This term includes caregiver: a person(s) whom the patient wishes to be involved with them in care, and acting on behalf of and in the interest of the patient. It refers to all other terms for patient including client,(...)
  • Patient Advisors
    Individuals who represent the patient perspective at all system levels. It includes champions, advocates, representatives, etc.
  • Patient Engagement
    Involvement of the patient perspective in decision making and active participation in all aspects of design, planning, delivery and evaluation of health services at all system levels.
  • Patient safety
    Freedom, for a patient, from unnecessary harm or potential harm associated with health care.
  • Patient-Centred Care & Patient- and Family-Centred Care
    PCC and PFCC are closely related approaches that guide all aspects of planning, delivering and evaluating clinical care decisions and services. The focus is always on creating and nurturing mutually beneficial partnerships among the care providers and the patients they serve. It means(...)
  • Patients as Partners
    A Ministry program and philosophy that promotes and supports the creation of patient- and family centred care through health care improvements. The principle driving the program is “nothing about me without me.”
  • PCC / PFCC
    PCC and PFCC are closely related approaches that guide all aspects of planning, delivering and evaluating clinical care decisions and services. The focus is always on creating and nurturing mutually beneficial partnerships among the care providers and the patients they serve. It means(...)
  • PDSA
    PDSA represents the four phases in small tests of changes: PLAN a small test of change, DO (test) that change, STUDY the results – what happened, and ACT – decide whether to adapt, adopt or abandon the change.
  • PDSA cycle
    A method for learning and improvement based on a scientific method. The PDSA cycle includes four phases: Plan, Do, Study, and Act. PDSA cycles can be used to develop, test and implement changes, initially on a small scale. They can be used sequentially over time to build knowledge about what(...)
  • PE
    Involvement of the patient perspective in decision making and active participation in all aspects of design, planning, delivery and evaluation of health services at all system levels.
  • Person-centred care
    A system that is designed and delivered to directly address the health care needs and preferences of patients. To achieve person-centred care, the focus must be on following six principles: respect; choice; empowerment; patient, caregiver and staff involvement in health policy; access and(...)
  • Person-centredness
    A focus on respect; choice; empowerment; involvement of patients, caregivers and staff in health policy; access and support; and information. See also "person-centred care".
  • Practice Support Program
    A joint initiative of the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC, this program helps doctors and their staff make improvements in their practices.
  • Primary Care
    Health care provided by health care professionals who act as a first point of consultation for patients within the health care system. This is usually a general practitioner or family physician, or a non-physician primary care provider such as a nurse practitioner, but can also include(...)
  • Primary Care Home
    A primary care home is a collaborative primary care network or co-located team of full service family practices, whose services are enhanced by linked or integrated health authority delivered primary care services. Primary care homes aim to provide accessible, continuous, coordinated and(...)
  • Process
    A series of steps required to achieve intended outcomes.
  • Process mapping
    A visual representation of activities and steps involved in a process, including who is responsible for each step, what the standard of practice is, and how success is determined.
  • Provincial Health Authorities
    The province’s health authorities are the organizations primarily responsible for health service delivery. Five regional health authorities deliver a full continuum of health services to meet the needs of the population within their respective geographic regions: Fraser Health Interior(...)
  • PSP
    A joint initiative of the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC, this program helps doctors and their staff make improvements in their practices.
  • Public Health
    The science and practice of protecting and improving the health of a community according to the public health principles of disease prevention, health promotion, and public policy.
  • Quality
    In the context of health care, quality refers to health service delivery and is evaluated on the patient’s experience, the provider’s experience, the outcome of the service, and the cost compared to the outcome of the service. The BC Health Quality Matrix outlines five dimensions of quality(...)
  • Quality of Care
    The degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes and are consistent with current professional knowledge. Seven dimensions of quality, as outlined in the BC Health Quality Matrix include: acceptability, appropriateness,(...)
  • Rapid improvement events
    These are structured ways of bringing together people who are involved in all parts of the process of delivering a service in order to allow detailed sharing of all actions undertaken (the current state), the process and opportunities to define a future state, and the improvement action plan(...)
  • Reliability
    The ability of a system to perform and maintain its expected functions, not only in routine circumstances, but also in hostile or unexpected circumstances.
  • Risk assessment
    An assessment of the probability that a potential hazard will occur, and its consequences.
  • Root cause analysis
    A problem-solving method that addresses, corrects or eliminates the root cause of a problem, instead of merely addressing the immediately obvious symptoms. By identifying the root causes, it is more likely that the problem will not occur again.
  • Run charts
    A run chart, also known as a time series plot, is a graph that shows observed data in a time sequence. It is used to show changes, patterns and trends in a process over time.
  • Safety culture
    A term often used to describe the way in which safety is managed in the workplace, and often reflects "the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety."
  • SBAR
    SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendations, and is a method of framing conversations, especially critical ones, as it allows clarification of information to be communicated between team members.
  • SCC
    A joint committee of Doctors of BC and the Ministry of Health that is working to address the care provided by both family physicians (FPs) and specialist physicians (SPs).
  • Secondary Care
    Health care services provided by medical specialists and other health professionals who generally do not have first contact with patients, for example, cardiologists, urologists, and dermatologists. Secondary care includes acute care: the necessary treatment for a short period of time for a(...)
  • Self-management
    Self-management, or self-care, refers to what we do every day to maintain our health and manage long-term health problems.
  • Shared Care Committee
    A joint committee of Doctors of BC and the Ministry of Health that is working to address the care provided by both family physicians (FPs) and specialist physicians (SPs).
  • Simulation
    The imitation of a situation or process. The act of simulating something generally involves representing certain key characteristics or behaviours. Simulation is used in many contexts to gain insight into their function. Example: modeling an emergency room environment in which teams can(...)
  • Six Sigma
    A set of management techniques for improving the results of a process by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors), as well as minimizing variability, by using statistical methods and following a defined sequence of steps (known as DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).
  • Spaghetti diagram
    A means of tracking movement in a specific area to identify wasted activity and movement.
  • SPC
    The application of statistical methods to monitor and control a process
  • Specialists Services Committee
    The committee was formed in 2006 and supports the delivery of specialist services and support improvement of the specialist care system in BC. See also GPSC, SCC.
  • SPOR
    SPOR is an initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Patient-oriented research refers to a continuum of research that engages patients as partners, focuses on patient-identified priorities and improves patient outcomes. In BC, SPOR is being activated through the BC(...)
  • Spread
    The intentional sharing of best practices and knowledge about improvement interventions, and the implementation of these interventions and best practices. (Source)
  • SSC
    The committee was formed in 2006 and supports the delivery of specialist services and support improvement of the specialist care system in BC. See also GPSC, SCC.
  • Standard work
    A Lean methodology concept, it is an agreed-upon method of following a process that maximizes value while minimizing waste.
  • Statistical process control
    The application of statistical methods to monitor and control a process
  • Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research
    SPOR is an initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Patient-oriented research refers to a continuum of research that engages patients as partners, focuses on patient-identified priorities and improves patient outcomes. In BC, SPOR is being activated through the BC(...)
  • Sustainability
    The capacity to endure. It’s the potential for long-term maintenance of well-being which has environmental, economic and social dimensions.
  • System
    Interdependent components (items, people, processes) that work together towards a common purpose. Systems have structure, behaviour and interconnectivity.
  • Teamwork
    Work performed by a team towards a common goal, often using agreed-upon activities and behaviours to assure quality and safety.
  • Teleconference
    A phone call that multiple people can participate in. Everyone dials into a common number and, once connected, all participants can hear each other.
  • Tertiary Care
    Specialized consultative health care, usually for inpatients and requiring a referral from a primary or secondary health professional, in a facility that has personnel and facilities for advanced medical investigation and treatment. Examples of tertiary care services are cancer management,(...)
  • Test
    A trial of a new approach or process, usually starting on a small scale and then expanding. A test is designed to help a team learn if a change results in improvement, and fine-tune the change to fit the organization and patients. Tests are often carried out using one or more PDSA cycles.
  • The General Practice Services Committee
    GPSC was formed in 2002 as a partnership between the Ministry and Doctors of BC. The Committee supports BC doctors by developing and implementing programs that improve job satisfaction for family doctors and primary health care for patients. (See also SCC, SSC)
  • The Ministry of Health
    The Ministry of Health (the Ministry) has overall responsibility for ensuring that quality, appropriate, cost effective and timely health services are available for all British Columbians. The Ministry is responsible for provincial legislation and regulations related to health care, including(...)
  • Timeout
    Refers to a pause in a procedure for a short amount of time. This allows team members to communicate to determine action or inspire morale. Teams usually call timeouts at strategically important points in a process to avoid members being misled or working with conflicting assumptions.
  • Trigger tools
    A means to measure the level of harm in health care by identifying adverse events. Because they are metric, trigger tools can be used to track improvements in safety over time.
  • Triple Aim
    The term “Triple Aim” refers to simultaneously improving the health of the population, enhancing the experience and outcomes of the patient, and reducing per-capita cost of care for the benefit of communities. It is a framework that serves as the foundation for organizations and communities to(...)
  • Value and waste
    A process adds value by producing goods or providing a service that a customer will receive. A process also consumes resources, which may produce waste when more resources are used than are necessary to produce the goods/services.
  • Value stream mapping
    A Lean technique used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a service to a customer/patient.
  • Variation
    The term variation refers to changes or differences in something within certain limits. All systems contain variation. Knowledge of the type of variation is needed to determine appropriate actions in each case. Common causes of variation are those that are inherent in a process or system.(...)
  • Waste
    Any step or action that is not required to complete a process, that doesn’t add value and  unnecessarily using resources that could be employed in other activities. The eight main types of waste are: defects, overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transportation, inventory excess, motion,(...)
  • Webinar
    Short for web-based seminar, a webinar is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the internet. In a webinar each participant sits at his or her own computer and is connected to other participants via the internet and/or teleconference.