Tips for designing your quality improvement spreadsheets

Steve DaumAmong our healthcare customers we find substantial use of Microsoft Excel. A recent survey of CHARTrunner customers found that 68% of them use data in Excel to produce their SPC charts and other analysis related to quality improvement. Excel is powerful and flexible and well suited to this job. However, this power can lead to complicated worksheets that are difficult to use and even more difficult to maintain. Once designed and deployed, a spreadsheet template may be in use for several years. Who will be around to debug an error or correct a formula that is discovered a year later?

To improve the situation requires well designed spreadsheets. Today, spreadsheets are so easy to setup and start to use – that we tend to gloss over using a design process to get started. Here are some tips to think about as you design your next quality improvement spreadsheet:

  1. Decide the primary purpose of the spreadsheet
  2. Make the primary purpose easy to accomplish
  3. Use the simplest possible sheet that accomplishes the purpose
  4. Don’t create future work for yourself
  5. Keep the data “pure”
  6. Be consistent among your sheets
  7. Favor traditional arrangements over weird arrangements
  8. Use a “notes” worksheet to document complex sheets

For a more detailed look at these tips see the following article in the PQ Systems knowledge base:

http://www.pqsystems.com/kb/activekb/questions/541/Excel+tips

2 thoughts on “Tips for designing your quality improvement spreadsheets

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