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Set SMART goals

Want to achieve your aims? This acronym is helpful. Set goals that are:


Describe exactly what you want to achieve. Instead of “achieve better quality reporting,” say “share laboratory test results with both the primary care provider and patient within 48 hours”


Quantify your target. Instead of “increase reporting of laboratory test results”, say “over 90% of laboratory test results will be shared…”


Choose a goal that is realistic for your organization to achieve – one that involves effort but does not require impossible requires undertaking the impossible. Before setting a goal of 100% compliance with a procedure, consider current practice and whether that is appropriate.


Pick a goal that is tied to the issue at hand. Will reaching the goal advance patient safety at your organization? For example, better reporting of laboratory results may lead to better-informed care decisions and avoid unnecessary duplicate testing.


Name a target date for finishing the goal, such as “in the next six months.”

Put it all together:

“Over the next six months, 90% of laboratory test results will be shared with both the primary care provider and patient within 48 hours.”

If you set a SMART goal, at the end of the time frame, you can compare where you are to your stated goal and know whether you reached your target.

Adapted from Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives". Management Review. AMA FORUM. 70 (11): 35–36.