Defining the Problem

Phase 2: Defining the Problem and the Project Outcome
Table of Contents

Defining the Problem
As you assess the problem or opportunity for improvement, you will find it helpful to be able to concisely and clearly communicate the project focus to your mentor, organizational leaders, and other stakeholders. A concise statement to describe the problem and the opportunity for improvement help you to effectively communicate the problem, and its importance.

Concise Description of the Problem and its Importance
Here are some tips regarding the development of a problem statement to convey your points:

The problem statement or statement of need should:

Represent a problem which can be solved, or a situation which can be improved
Clearly describe the problem
Clearly convey the importance to all stakeholders
Clarify your intention and what you hope to achieve
When writing a problem statement or statement of need, there is no need to worry about defining a specific outcome or output. Those steps will come later in the planning process. The main idea with a problem statement or statement of need is to communicate in a succinct manner the essence of the problem which you plan to address, and why it is important. As you develop the problem statement, keep in mind the scope of your project and timeframe available.

Helpful Reminders
Components of a well-written problem statement or statement of need include:

Succinct description of the problem (need, or situation to be improved)
Location of the problem (unit, organization, etc.)
Size/scope/implications of the problem
Another way to envision the problem statement is to consider the following:

Who – who does the problem affect?
What – what is the problem/need and its impact?
When – when does or did the problem/need occur?
Where – where does this problem/need occur?
Why – why is it important to fix the problem?
Make the Connection
As you read through the examples provided below, think about the similarities that are shared across each one. For example, while they each address a different problem, they contain similar elements to allow for a succinct, clear description of the problem and its impact on health outcomes and healthcare delivery:

Example A
The ACA established new community benefit requirements for nonprofit hospitals which include a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) to be completed every three years. Priority needs must be determined and a strategic plan implemented to address each of the needs identified. Rural County Hospital must comply with this legislative requirement in order to maintain tax-exempt status. As such, a CHNA and strategic plan must be completed by 12/31/2021 in order to submit to the IRS (Form 990) with taxes for fiscal year 2021.

Note – In this example, there is a legislative mandate which serves as primary rationale for the need. Financial bottom line is the driving factor (maintaining tax-exempt status).

Example B

Unit 6 West reported an increase in CAUTI rates from 11% to 27% during the first quarter (January through March 2020). One of the National Patient Safety Goals is the prevention of infection. The increased infection rate results in additional medical treatment, compromised health status, and in some cases prolonged the hospital stays. As a result, a staff development course is needed regarding guidelines to prevent infections of the urinary tract that are caused by catheters.

Note – In this example, there is an increased rate of infection on the unit and compromised health, coupled with the NPSG, to validate the need.

Example C

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