OBJECTIVES: To review the role of theory as a means to enhance the practice of quality improvement (QI) research and to propose a novel conceptual model focused on the operations of health care.
METHODS: Conceptual model, informed by literature review.
RESULTS: To optimize learning across QI studies requires the integration of small-scale theories (middle-range theories, theories of change) within the context of larger unifying theories. We propose that health care QI research would benefit from a theory that describes the operations of health care delivery, including the multiplicity of roles that interpersonal interactions play. The broadest constructs of the model are entry into the system, and assessment and management of the patient, with the subordinate operations of access; recognition, assessment, and diagnosis; and medical decision-making (developing a plan), coordination of care, execution of care, referral and reassessment, respectively. Interpersonal aspects of care recognize the patient/caregiver as a source of information, an individual in a cultural context, a complex human being, and a partner in their care. Impacts to any and all of these roles may impact the quality of care.
CONCLUSIONS: Such a theory can promote opportunities for moving the field forward and organizing the planning and interpretation of comparable studies. The articulation of such a theory may simultaneously provide guidance for the QI researcher and an opportunity for refinement and improvement.
- quality of health care (measurement)
- research methods
- applied research
- quality improvement (research and practice)
- health services research
- Accepted December 20, 2012.
- Copyright © 2013 by the American Academy of Pediatrics