Quality Improvement in Healthcare : Experiences from a Swedish County Council Initiative

Sammanfattning: Quality improvement (QI) has become an important issue in healthcare settings. A central question for many healthcare systems is how to manage improvement initiatives adequately. All county councils and regions managing healthcare in Sweden have started to work with QI at an organizational system level, to varied extents. The Kalmar county council improvement initiative constitutes the empirical basis of this thesis. The aim of the thesis is to provide knowledge about different aspects of a county-wide improvement initiative, and a broader understanding of factors and strategies that affect participation, management and outcomes. The overall study design is based on a case study.The first two studies illuminate the practice-based (micro level), bottom-up perspective. Inductively five different areas (categories) were identified. Factors influencing participation in improvement initiatives provided the basis for the next study. The result showed that different staff categories were attracted by different initiatives. The next two studies illuminate the top-down (macro/meso) management perspective. Managers’ views of how patients can participate were investigated and a content analysis of the written answers was made. Four main areas (categories) were identified. A survey study investigated all of the county council managers’ experiences of the whole improvement initiative. Overall the managers thought that the improvement work was worth the effort. To evaluate the Breakthrough Collaborative program, a survey was developed and tested. This survey was used to investigate process and outcome of the BC program. The majority of the respondents were satisfied with their work, but wanted more time for teams to meet and work. To find out if an improvement program can affect outcome and contribute to sustainable changes, interviews were made with project applicants (n=202). Almost half (48%) of the projects were funded, and of those 51% were sustained. Of the rejected (not funded) projects, 28% were accomplished and sustained anyway. The results in this thesis cannot show that the “golden mean” exists, or that a single best way to manage changes and improvements in a healthcare organization has been found, but the way QI initiatives are organized does affect participation and outcomes. The intention, from the management topdown system level, encouraging staff and units and letting practice-based ideas develop at all system levels, can stimulate and facilitate improvement work.