Building the Case for Quality Improvement in the Health Care Industry: A Focus on Goals and Training

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Health care organizations are under intense pressure to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care delivery and, increasingly, they are using quality improvement teams to identify and target projects to improve performance outcomes. This raises the question of what factors actually drive the performance of these projects in a health care environment. Using data from a survey of health care professionals acting as informants for 244 patient care, clinical-administrative, and nonclinical administrative quality improvement project types in 93 health care organizations, we focus on 2 factors—goal setting and quality training—as potential drivers of quality improvement project performance. We find that project-level goals and quality training have positive associations with process quality, while organizational-level goals have no impact. In addition, the relationship between project-level goals and process quality is stronger for patient care projects than for administrative projects. This indicates that the motivational and cognitive effects of goal setting are greater for projects that involve interactions with clinicians than for ones that involve interactions with other staff. Although project-level goal setting is beneficial for improving process quality overall, our findings suggest the importance of being especially attentive to goal setting for projects that impact direct patient care.

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