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1.  Can Italian Healthcare Administrative Databases Be Used to Compare Regions with Respect to Compliance with Standards of Care for Chronic Diseases? 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e95419.
Background
Italy has a population of 60 million and a universal coverage single-payer healthcare system, which mandates collection of healthcare administrative data in a uniform fashion throughout the country. On the other hand, organization of the health system takes place at the regional level, and local initiatives generate natural experiments. This is happening in particular in primary care, due to the need to face the growing burden of chronic diseases. Health services research can compare and evaluate local initiatives on the basis of the common healthcare administrative data.However reliability of such data in this context needs to be assessed, especially when comparing different regions of the country. In this paper we investigated the validity of healthcare administrative databases to compute indicators of compliance with standards of care for diabetes, ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and heart failure (HF).
Methods
We compared indicators estimated from healthcare administrative data collected by Local Health Authorities in five Italian regions with corresponding estimates from clinical data collected by General Practitioners (GPs). Four indicators of diagnostic follow-up (two for diabetes, one for IHD and one for HF) and four indicators of appropriate therapy (two each for IHD and HF) were considered.
Results
Agreement between the two data sources was very good, except for indicators of laboratory diagnostic follow-up in one region and for the indicator of bioimaging diagnostic follow-up in all regions, where measurement with administrative data underestimated quality.
Conclusion
According to evidence presented in this study, estimating compliance with standards of care for diabetes, ischaemic heart disease and heart failure from healthcare databases is likely to produce reliable results, even though completeness of data on diagnostic procedures should be assessed first. Performing studies comparing regions using such indicators as outcomes is a promising development with potential to improve quality governance in the Italian healthcare system.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095419
PMCID: PMC4015953  PMID: 24816637
2.  Deepening our understanding of quality improvement in Europe (DUQuE): overview of a study of hospital quality management in seven countries 
Introduction and Objective
This paper provides an overview of the DUQuE (Deepening our Understanding of Quality Improvement in Europe) project, the first study across multiple countries of the European Union (EU) to assess relationships between quality management and patient outcomes at EU level. The paper describes the conceptual framework and methods applied, highlighting the novel features of this study.
Design
DUQuE was designed as a multi-level cross-sectional study with data collection at hospital, pathway, professional and patient level in eight countries.
Setting and Participants
We aimed to collect data for the assessment of hospital-wide constructs from up to 30 randomly selected hospitals in each country, and additional data at pathway and patient level in 12 of these 30.
Main outcome measures
A comprehensive conceptual framework was developed to account for the multiple levels that influence hospital performance and patient outcomes. We assessed hospital-specific constructs (organizational culture and professional involvement), clinical pathway constructs (the organization of care processes for acute myocardial infarction, stroke, hip fracture and deliveries), patient-specific processes and outcomes (clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient experience) and external constructs that could modify hospital quality (external assessment and perceived external pressure).
Results
Data was gathered from 188 hospitals in 7 participating countries. The overall participation and response rate were between 75% and 100% for the assessed measures.
Conclusions
This is the first study assessing relation between quality management and patient outcomes at EU level. The study involved a large number of respondents and achieved high response rates. This work will serve to develop guidance in how to assess quality management and makes recommendations on the best ways to improve quality in healthcare for hospital stakeholders, payers, researchers, and policy makers throughout the EU.
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzu025
PMCID: PMC4001699  PMID: 24671120
quality management systems; clinical indicators; clinical effectiveness; quality of healthcare; hospitals; cross-national research; patient outcomes
3.  Measuring clinical management by physicians and nurses in European hospitals: development and validation of two scales 
Objective
Clinical management is hypothesized to be critical for hospital management and hospital performance. The aims of this study were to develop and validate professional involvement scales for measuring the level of clinical management by physicians and nurses in European hospitals.
Design
Testing of validity and reliability of scales derived from a questionnaire of 21 items was developed on the basis of a previous study and expert opinion and administered in a cross-sectional seven-country research project ‘Deepening our Understanding of Quality improvement in Europe’ (DUQuE).
Setting and Participants
A sample of 3386 leading physicians and nurses working in 188 hospitals located in Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
Main Outcome Measures
Validity and reliability of professional involvement scales and subscales.
Results
Psychometric analysis yielded four subscales for leading physicians: (i) Administration and budgeting, (ii) Managing medical practice, (iii) Strategic management and (iv) Managing nursing practice. Only the first three factors applied well to the nurses. Cronbach's alpha for internal consistency ranged from 0.74 to 0.86 for the physicians, and from 0.61 to 0.81 for the nurses. Except for the 0.74 correlation between ‘Administration and budgeting’ and ‘Managing medical practice’ among physicians, all inter-scale correlations were <0.70 (range 0.43–0.61). Under testing for construct validity, the subscales were positively correlated with ‘formal management roles’ of physicians and nurses.
Conclusions
The professional involvement scales appear to yield reliable and valid data in European hospital settings, but the scale ‘Managing medical practice’ for nurses needs further exploration. The measurement instrument can be used for international research on clinical management.
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzu014
PMCID: PMC4001689  PMID: 24615595
clinical management; professional involvement; quality systems; hospital management
4.  Involvement of patients or their representatives in quality management functions in EU hospitals: implementation and impact on patient-centred care strategies 
Objective
The objective of this study was to describe the involvement of patients or their representatives in quality management (QM) functions and to assess associations between levels of involvement and the implementation of patient-centred care strategies.
Design
A cross-sectional, multilevel study design that surveyed quality managers and department heads and data from an organizational audit.
Setting
Randomly selected hospitals (n = 74) from seven European countries (The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey).
Participants
Hospital quality managers (n = 74) and heads of clinical departments (n = 262) in charge of four patient pathways (acute myocardial infarction, stroke, hip fracture and deliveries) participated in the data collection between May 2011 and February 2012.
Main Outcome Measures
Four items reflecting essential patient-centred care strategies based on an on-site hospital visit: (1) formal survey seeking views of patients and carers, (2) written policies on patients' rights, (3) patient information literature including guidelines and (4) fact sheets for post-discharge care. The main predictors were patient involvement in QM at the (i) hospital level and (ii) pathway level.
Results
Current levels of involving patients and their representatives in QM functions in European hospitals are low at hospital level (mean score 1.6 on a scale of 0 to 5, SD 0.7), but even lower at departmental level (mean 0.6, SD 0.7). We did not detect associations between levels of involving patients and their representatives in QM functions and the implementation of patient-centred care strategies; however, the smallest hospitals were more likely to have implemented patient-centred care strategies.
Conclusions
There is insufficient evidence that involving patients and their representatives in QM leads to establishing or implementing strategies and procedures that facilitate patient-centred care; however, lack of evidence should not be interpreted as evidence of no effect.
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzu022
PMCID: PMC4001693  PMID: 24615596
quality management; quality measurement; patient-centred care; hospital care, hospital, patient involvement
5.  A checklist for patient safety rounds at the care pathway level 
Objective
To define a checklist that can be used to assess the performance of a department and evaluate the implementation of quality management (QM) activities across departments or pathways in acute care hospitals.
Design
We developed and tested a checklist for the assessment of QM activities at department level in a cross-sectional study using on-site visits by trained external auditors.
Setting and participants
A sample of 292 hospital departments of 74 acute care hospitals across seven European countries. In every hospital, four departments for the conditions: acute myocardial infarction (AMI), stroke, hip fracture and deliveries participated.
Main Outcome Measures
Four measures of QM activities were evaluated at care pathway level focusing on specialized expertise and responsibility (SER), evidence-based organization of pathways (EBOP), patient safety strategies and clinical review (CR).
Results
Participating departments attained mean values on the various scales between 1.2 and 3.7. The theoretical range was 0–4. Three of the four QM measures are identical for the four conditions, whereas one scale (EBOP) has condition-specific items. Correlations showed that every factor was related, but also distinct, and added to the overall picture of QM at pathway level.
Conclusion
The newly developed checklist can be used across various types of departments and pathways in acute care hospitals like AMI, deliveries, stroke and hip fracture. The anticipated users of the checklist are internal (e.g. peers within the hospital and hospital executive board) and external auditors (e.g. healthcare inspectorate, professional or patient organizations).
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzu019
PMCID: PMC4001694  PMID: 24615594
quality improvement; quality management; external quality assessment; measurement of quality; surgery; professions; hospital care
6.  DUQuE quality management measures: associations between quality management at hospital and pathway levels 
Objective
The assessment of integral quality management (QM) in a hospital requires measurement and monitoring from different perspectives and at various levels of care delivery. Within the DUQuE project (Deepening our Understanding of Quality improvement in Europe), seven measures for QM were developed. This study investigates the relationships between the various quality measures.
Design
It is a multi-level, cross-sectional, mixed-method study.
Setting and Participants
As part of the DUQuE project, we invited a random sample of 74 hospitals in 7 countries. The quality managers of these hospitals were the main respondents. Furthermore, data of site visits of external surveyors assessing the participating hospitals were used.
Main Outcome Measures
Three measures of QM at hospitals level focusing on integral systems (QMSI), compliance with the Plan-Do-Study-Act quality improvement cycle (QMCI) and implementation of clinical quality (CQII). Four measures of QM activities at care pathway level focusing on Specialized expertise and responsibility (SER), Evidence-based organization of pathways (EBOP), Patient safety strategies (PSS) and Clinical review (CR).
Results
Positive significant associations were found between the three hospitals level QM measures. Results of the relationships between levels were mixed and showed most associations between QMCI and department-level QM measures for all four types of departments. QMSI was associated with PSS in all types of departments.
Conclusion
By using the seven measures of QM, it is possible to get a more comprehensive picture of the maturity of QM in hospitals, with regard to the different levels and across various types of hospital departments.
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzu020
PMCID: PMC4001696  PMID: 24615597
quality management; quality improvement; external quality assessment; measurement of quality; organization science, healthcare system; patient safety; hospital care
7.  The effect of certification and accreditation on quality management in 4 clinical services in 73 European hospitals 
Objective
To investigate the relationship between ISO 9001 certification, healthcare accreditation and quality management in European hospitals.
Design
A mixed method multi-level cross-sectional design in seven countries. External teams assessed clinical services on the use of quality management systems, illustrated by four clinical pathways.
Setting and Participants
Seventy-three acute care hospitals with a total of 291 services managing acute myocardial infarction (AMI), hip fracture, stroke and obstetric deliveries, in Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
Main Outcome Measure
Four composite measures of quality and safety [specialized expertise and responsibility (SER), evidence-based organization of pathways (EBOP), patient safety strategies (PSS) and clinical review (CR)] applied to four pathways.
Results
Accreditation in isolation showed benefits in AMI and stroke more than in deliveries and hip fracture; the greatest significant association was with CR in stroke. Certification in isolation showed little benefit in AMI but had more positive association with the other conditions; greatest significant association was in PSS with stroke. The combination of accreditation and certification showed least benefit in EBOP, but significant benefits in SER (AMI), in PSS (AMI, hip fracture and stroke) and in CR (AMI and stroke).
Conclusions
Accreditation and certification are positively associated with clinical leadership, systems for patient safety and clinical review, but not with clinical practice. Both systems promote structures and processes, which support patient safety and clinical organization but have limited effect on the delivery of evidence-based patient care. Further analysis of DUQuE data will explore the association of certification and accreditation with clinical outcomes.
doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzu023
PMCID: PMC4001697  PMID: 24257160
accreditation; certification; health care quality assessment; quality management; patient safety
8.  International Comparability of Patient Safety Indicators in 15 OECD Member Countries: A Methodological Approach of Adjustment by Secondary Diagnoses 
Health Services Research  2011;47(1 Pt 1):275-292.
Objective
To improve the international comparability of patient safety indicators based on administrative hospital data, adjustment of country-specific rates by a proxy measure of diagnostic coding intensity was tested.
Data Sources
Secondary data (numerator and denominator counts of patient safety indicators) based on adults discharged from acute care hospitals between 2006 and 2008 was used.
Study Design
A retrospective cross-sectional study using hospital administrative data was performed.
Data Collection
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States provided data according to detailed instructions.
Principal Findings
Age- and sex-standardized rates varied across countries. An ordinary least squares regression model was estimated for each Patient Safety Indicator (PSI) using the mean number of secondary diagnoses among denominator cases as the predictor (R2=23 percent to 56 percent). Estimated country-specific residuals were linearly transformed into adjusted PSI rates. Variation among age–sex standardized PSI rates decreased substantially after this adjustment.
Conclusions
International comparisons of health system performance based on unadjusted patient safety indicators are problematic due to suspected coding or ascertainment bias. The model could be an interim approach to provide comparable information on hospital quality, with a long-term goal of improving international consistency in diagnostic reporting in administrative data.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01290.x
PMCID: PMC3447235  PMID: 21762143
Patient safety; quality indicators; international classification of diseases
9.  Using Quality Measures for Quality Improvement: The Perspective of Hospital Staff 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86014.
Research objective
This study examines the perspectives of a range of key hospital staff on the use, importance, scientific background, availability of data, feasibility of data collection, cost benefit aspects and availability of professional personnel for measurement of quality indicators among Iranian hospitals. The study aims to facilitate the use of quality indicators to improve quality of care in hospitals.
Study design
A cross-sectional study was conducted over the period 2009 to 2010. Staff at Iranian hospitals completed a self-administered questionnaire eliciting their views on organizational, clinical process, and outcome (clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient centeredness) indicators.
Population studied
93 hospital frontline staff including hospital/nursing managers, medical doctors, nurses, and quality improvement/medical records officers in 48 general and specialized hospitals in Iran.
Principal findings
On average, only 69% of respondents reported using quality indicators in practice at their affiliated hospitals. Respondents varied significantly in their reported use of organizational, clinical process and outcome quality indicators. Overall, clinical process and effectiveness indicators were reported to be least used. The reported use of indicators corresponded with their perceived level of importance. Quality indicators were reported to be used among clinical staff significantly more than among managerial staff. In total, 74% of the respondents reported to use obligatory indicators, while this was 68% for voluntary indicators (p<0.05).
Conclusions
There is a general awareness of the importance and usability of quality indicators among hospital staff in Iran, but their use is currently mostly directed towards external accountability purposes. To increase the formative use of quality indicators, creation of a common culture and feeling of shared ownership, alongside an increased uptake of clinical process and effectiveness indicators is needed to support internal quality improvement processes at hospital level.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086014
PMCID: PMC3900447  PMID: 24465842
10.  The Dutch health care performance report: seven years of health care performance assessment in the Netherlands 
In 2006, the first edition of a monitoring tool for the performance of the Dutch health care system was released: the Dutch Health Care Performance Report (DHCPR). The Netherlands was among the first countries in the world developing such a comprehensive tool for reporting performance on quality, access, and affordability of health care. The tool contains 125 performance indicators; the choice for specific indicators resulted from a dialogue between researchers and policy makers. In the ‘policy cycle’, the DHCPR can rationally be placed between evaluation (accountability) and agenda-setting (for strategic decision making). In this paper, we reflect on important lessons learned after seven years of health care system performance assessment. These lessons entail the importance of a good conceptual framework for health system performance assessment, the importance of repeated measurement, the strength of combining multiple perspectives (e.g., patient, professional, objective, subjective) on the same issue, the importance of a central role for the patients’ perspective in performance assessment, how to deal with the absence of data in relevant domains, the value of international benchmarking and the continuous exchange between researchers and policy makers.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-12-1
PMCID: PMC3896735  PMID: 24405849
Health care; Health system performance assessment; Performance indicators
11.  Influences of hospital information systems, indicator data collection and computation on reported Dutch hospital performance indicator scores 
Background
For health care performance indicators (PIs) to be reliable, data underlying the PIs are required to be complete, accurate, consistent and reproducible. Given the lack of regulation of the data-systems used in the Netherlands, and the self-report based indicator scores, one would expect heterogeneity with respect to the data collection and the ways indicators are computed. This might affect the reliability and plausibility of the nationally reported scores.
Methods
We aimed to investigate the extent to which local hospital data collection and indicator computation strategies differ and how this affects the plausibility of self-reported indicator scores, using survey results of 42 hospitals and data of the Dutch national quality database.
Results
The data collection and indicator computation strategies of the hospitals were substantially heterogenic. Moreover, the Hip and Knee replacement PI scores can be regarded as largely implausible, which was, to a great extent, related to a limited (computerized) data registry. In contrast, Breast Cancer PI scores were more plausible, despite the incomplete data registry and limited data access. This might be explained by the role of the regional cancer centers that collect most of the indicator data for the national cancer registry, in a standardized manner. Hospitals can use cancer registry indicator scores to report to the government, instead of their own locally collected indicator scores.
Conclusions
Indicator developers, users and the scientific field need to focus more on the underlying (heterogenic) ways of data collection and conditional data infrastructures. Countries that have a liberal software market and are aiming to implement a self-report based performance indicator system to obtain health care transparency, should secure the accuracy and precision of the heath care data from which the PIs are calculated. Moreover, ongoing research and development of PIs and profound insight in the clinical practice of data registration is warranted.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-212
PMCID: PMC3698115  PMID: 23758921
Performance indicators; Health care quality; Reliability; Hospital information system
12.  Why a successful task substitution in glaucoma care could not be transferred from a hospital setting to a primary care setting: a qualitative study 
Background
Healthcare systems are challenged by a demand that exceeds available resources. One policy to meet this challenge is task substitution-transferring tasks to other professions and settings. Our study aimed to explore stakeholders’ perceived feasibility of transferring hospital-based monitoring of stable glaucoma patients to primary care optometrists.
Methods
A case study was undertaken in the Rotterdam Eye Hospital (REH) using semi-structured interviews and document reviews. They were inductively analysed using three implementation related theoretical perspectives: sociological theories on professionalism, management theories, and applied political analysis.
Results
Currently it is not feasible to use primary care optometrists as substitutes for optometrists and ophthalmic technicians working in a hospital-based glaucoma follow-up unit (GFU). Respondents’ narratives revealed that: the glaucoma specialists’ sense of urgency for task substitution outside the hospital diminished after establishing a GFU that satisfied their professionalization needs; the return on investments were unclear; and reluctant key stakeholders with strong power positions blocked implementation. The window of opportunity that existed for task substitution in person and setting in 1999 closed with the institutionalization of the GFU.
Conclusions
Transferring the monitoring of stable glaucoma patients to primary care optometrists in Rotterdam did not seem feasible. The main reasons were the lack of agreement on professional boundaries and work domains, the institutionalization of the GFU in the REH, and the absence of an appropriate reimbursement system. Policy makers considering substituting tasks to other professionals should carefully think about the implementation process, especially in a two-step implementation process (substitution in person and in setting) such as this case. Involving the substituting professionals early on to ensure all stakeholders see the change as a normal step in the professionalization of the substituting professionals is essential, as is implementing the task substitution within the window of opportunity.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-14
PMCID: PMC3576268  PMID: 23351180
Diffusion of innovation; Access to health care; Quality of health care
13.  Performance indicators for public mental healthcare: a systematic international inventory 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:214.
Background
The development and use of performance indicators (PI) in the field of public mental health care (PMHC) has increased rapidly in the last decade. To gain insight in the current state of PI for PMHC in nations and regions around the world, we conducted a structured review of publications in scientific peer-reviewed journals supplemented by a systematic inventory of PI published in policy documents by (non-) governmental organizations.
Methods
Publications on PI for PMHC were identified through database- and internet searches. Final selection was based on review of the full content of the publications. Publications were ordered by nation or region and chronologically. Individual PI were classified by development method, assessment level, care domain, performance dimension, diagnostic focus, and data source. Finally, the evidence on feasibility, data reliability, and content-, criterion-, and construct validity of the PI was evaluated.
Results
A total of 106 publications were included in the sample. The majority of the publications (n = 65) were peer-reviewed journal articles and 66 publications specifically dealt with performance of PMHC in the United States. The objectives of performance measurement vary widely from internal quality improvement to increasing transparency and accountability. The characteristics of 1480 unique PI were assessed. The majority of PI is based on stakeholder opinion, assesses care processes, is not specific to any diagnostic group, and utilizes administrative data sources. The targeted quality dimensions varied widely across and within nations depending on local professional or political definitions and interests. For all PI some evidence for the content validity and feasibility has been established. Data reliability, criterion- and construct validity have rarely been assessed. Only 18 publications on criterion validity were included. These show significant associations in the expected direction on the majority of PI, but mixed results on a noteworthy number of others.
Conclusions
PI have been developed for a broad range of care levels, domains, and quality dimensions of PMHC. To ensure their usefulness for the measurement of PMHC performance and advancement of transparency, accountability and quality improvement in PMHC, future research should focus on assessment of the psychometric properties of PI.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-214
PMCID: PMC3353215  PMID: 22433251
14.  How can quality of health care be safeguarded across the European Union? 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2008;336(7650):920-923.
Can Europeans be confident about the quality of care received in another EU country? Helena Legido-Quigley and colleagues discuss the various mechanisms at work across Europe to ensure quality and safety
doi:10.1136/bmj.39538.584190.47
PMCID: PMC2335269  PMID: 18436947
15.  Making Health System Performance Measurement Useful to Policy Makers: Aligning Strategies, Measurement and Local Health System Accountability in Ontario 
Healthcare Policy  2010;5(3):49-65.
This study examined the experience of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in enhancing its stewardship and performance management role by developing a health system strategy map and a strategy-based scorecard through a process of policy reviews and expert consultations, and linking them to accountability agreements. An evaluation of the implementation and of the effects of the policy intervention has been carried out through direct policy observation over three years, document analysis, interviews with decision-makers and systematic discussion of findings with other authors and external reviewers. Cascading strategies at health and local health system levels were identified, and a core set of health system and local health system performance indicators was selected and incorporated into accountability agreements with the Local Health Integration Networks. despite the persistence of such challenges as measurement limitations and lack of systematic linkage to decision-making processes, these activities helped to strengthen substantially the ministry's performance management function.
PMCID: PMC2831733  PMID: 21286268
16.  Cost-effectiveness of monitoring glaucoma patients in shared care: an economic evaluation alongside a randomized controlled trial 
Background
Population aging increases the number of glaucoma patients which leads to higher workloads of glaucoma specialists. If stable glaucoma patients were monitored by optometrists and ophthalmic technicians in a glaucoma follow-up unit (GFU) rather than by glaucoma specialists, the specialists' workload and waiting lists might be reduced.
We compared costs and quality of care at the GFU with those of usual care by glaucoma specialists in the Rotterdam Eye Hospital (REH) in a 30-month randomized clinical trial. Because quality of care turned out to be similar, we focus here on the costs.
Methods
Stable glaucoma patients were randomized between the GFU and the glaucoma specialist group. Costs per patient year were calculated from four perspectives: those of patients, the Rotterdam Eye Hospital (REH), Dutch healthcare system, and society. The outcome measures were: compliance to the protocol; patient satisfaction; stability according to the practitioner; mean difference in IOP; results of the examinations; and number of treatment changes.
Results
Baseline characteristics (such as age, intraocular pressure and target pressure) were comparable between the GFU group (n = 410) and the glaucoma specialist group (n = 405).
Despite a higher number of visits per year, mean hospital costs per patient year were lower in the GFU group (€139 vs. €161). Patients' time and travel costs were similar. Healthcare costs were significantly lower for the GFU group (€230 vs. €251), as were societal costs (€310 vs. €339) (p < 0.01). Bootstrap-, sensitivity- and scenario-analyses showed that the costs were robust when varying hospital policy and the duration of visits and tests.
Conclusion
We conclude that this GFU is cost-effective and deserves to be considered for implementation in other hospitals.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-312
PMCID: PMC3006381  PMID: 21083880
17.  Investigating organizational quality improvement systems, patient empowerment, organizational culture, professional involvement and the quality of care in European hospitals: the 'Deepening our Understanding of Quality Improvement in Europe (DUQuE)' project 
Background
Hospitals in European countries apply a wide range of quality improvement strategies. Knowledge of the effectiveness of these strategies, implemented as part of an overall hospital quality improvement system, is limited.
Methods/Design
We propose to study the relationships among organisational quality improvement systems, patient empowerment, organisational culture, professionals' involvement with the quality of hospital care, including clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient involvement. We will employ a cross-sectional, multi-level study design in which patient-level measurements are nested in hospital departments, which are in turn nested in hospitals in different EU countries. Mixed methods will be used for data collection, measurement and analysis. Hospital/care pathway level constructs that will be assessed include external pressure, hospital governance, quality improvement system, patient empowerment in quality improvement, organisational culture and professional involvement. These constructs will be assessed using questionnaires. Patient-level constructs include clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient involvement, and will be assessed using audit of patient records, routine data and patient surveys. For the assessment of hospital and pathway level constructs we will collect data from randomly selected hospitals in eight countries. For a sample of hospitals in each country we will carry out additional data collection at patient-level related to four conditions (stroke, acute myocardial infarction, hip fracture and delivery). In addition, structural components of quality improvement systems will be assessed using visits by experienced external assessors. Data analysis will include descriptive statistics and graphical representations and methods for data reduction, classification techniques and psychometric analysis, before moving to bi-variate and multivariate analysis. The latter will be conducted at hospital and multilevel. In addition, we will apply sophisticated methodological elements such as the use of causal diagrams, outcome modelling, double robust estimation and detailed sensitivity analysis or multiple bias analyses to assess the impact of the various sources of bias.
Discussion
Products of the project will include a catalogue of instruments and tools that can be used to build departmental or hospital quality and safety programme and an appraisal scheme to assess the maturity of the quality improvement system for use by hospitals and by purchasers to contract hospitals.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-281
PMCID: PMC2949856  PMID: 20868470
18.  Determining the interviewer effect on CQ Index outcomes: a multilevel approach 
Background
The CQ Index for the elderly, a quality-of-care questionnaire administered by conducting interviews, is used to assess clients' experiences in Dutch nursing homes and homes for the elderly. This article describes whether inter-interviewer differences influence the perceived quality of healthcare services reported by residents, the size of this interviewer effect and the influence of the interviewer characteristics on CQ Index dimensions for public reporting.
Methods
Data from 4345 questionnaires was used. Correlations were calculated, reliability analyses were performed, and a multilevel analysis was used to calculate the degree of correlation between two interviewers within one health care institution. Five models were constructed and the Intra Class Correlation (ICC) was calculated. Healthcare institutions were given 1-5 stars on every quality dimensions (1 = worst and 5 = best), adjusted for resident and interviewer characteristics. The effect of these characteristics on the assignment of the stars was investigated.
Results
In a multilevel approach, the ICC showed a significant amount of variance on five quality dimensions. Of the interviewer characteristics, only previous interviewing experience, the reason of interviewing and general knowledge of health care had a significant effect on the quality dimensions. Adjusting for interviewer characteristics did not affect the overall star assignment to the institutions regarding 7 of 12 quality dimensions. For the other five dimensions (Shared decision-making, Meals, Professional competency, Autonomy, and Availability of personnel) a minor effect was found.
Conclusions
We have shown that training, the use of experienced interviewers, written instructions, supervision and educational meetings do not automatically prevent interviewer effects. While the results of this study can be used to improve the quality of services provided by these institutions, several CQ index dimensions should be interpreted with caution for external purposes (accountability and transparency).
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-10-75
PMCID: PMC2936930  PMID: 20723218
19.  Shelter-based convalescence for homeless adults in Amsterdam: a descriptive study 
Background
Adequate support for homeless populations includes shelter and care to recuperate from illness and/or injury. This is a descriptive analysis of diagnoses and use of shelter-based convalescence in a cohort of homeless adults in Amsterdam.
Methods
Demographics of ill homeless adults, diagnoses, referral pattern, length of stay, discharge locations, and mortality, were collected by treating physicians during outreach care provision in a shelter-based convalescence care facility in Amsterdam, from January 2001 through October 2007.
Results
629 individuals accounted for 889 admissions to the convalescence care facility. 83% were male and 53% were born in the Netherlands. The mean age was 45 years (SD 10 years). The primary physical problems were skin disorders (37%), respiratory disorders (33%), digestive disorders (24%) and musculoskeletal disorders (21%). Common chronic conditions included addictions 78%, mental health disorders 20%, HIV/AIDS 11% and liver cirrhosis 5%. Referral sources were self-referred (18%), general hospitals (21%) and drug clinics (27%). The median length of stay was 20 days. After (self)discharge, 63% went back to the previous circumstances, 10% obtained housing, and 23% went to a medical or nursing setting. By March 2008, one in seven users (n = 83; 13%) were known to have died, the Standard Mortality Ratio was 7.5 (95% CI: 4.1-13.5). Over the years, fewer men were admitted, with significantly more self neglect, personality disorders and cocaine use. Lengths of stay increased significantly during the study period.
Conclusion
Over the last years, the shelter-based convalescence care facility users were mainly homeless single males, around 45 years of age, with chronic problems due to substance use, mental health disorders and a frail physical condition, many of whom died a premature death. The facility has been flexible and responsive to the needs of the users and services available.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-208
PMCID: PMC2784460  PMID: 19922617
20.  Transforming medical professionalism to fit changing health needs 
BMC Medicine  2009;7:64.
Background
The professional organization of medical work no longer reflects the changing health needs caused by the growing number of complex and chronically ill patients. Key stakeholders enforce coordination and remove power from the medical professions in order allow for these changes. However, it may also be necessary to initiate basic changes to way in which the medical professionals work in order to adapt to the changing health needs.
Discussion
Medical leaders, supported by health policy makers, can consciously activate the self-regulatory capacity of medical professionalism in order to transform the medical profession and the related professional processes of care so that it can adapt to the changing health needs. In doing so, they would open up additional routes to the improvement of the health services system and to health improvement. This involves three consecutive steps: (1) defining and categorizing the health needs of the population; (2) reorganizing the specialty domains around the needs of population groups; (3) reorganizing the specialty domains by eliminating work that could be done by less educated personnel or by the patients themselves. We suggest seven strategies that are required in order to achieve this transformation.
Summary
Changing medical professionalism to fit the changing health needs will not be easy. It will need strong leadership. But, if the medical world does not embark on this endeavour, good doctoring will become merely a bureaucratic and/or marketing exercise that obscures the ultimate goal of medicine which is to optimize the health of both individuals and the entire population.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-64
PMCID: PMC2773806  PMID: 19857246
21.  Pathways into homelessness: recently homeless adults problems and service use before and after becoming homeless in Amsterdam 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:3.
Background
To improve homelessness prevention practice, we met with recently homeless adults, to explore their pathways into homelessness, problems and service use, before and after becoming homeless.
Methods
Recently homeless adults (last housing lost up to two years ago and legally staying in the Netherlands) were sampled in the streets, day centres and overnight shelters in Amsterdam. In April and May 2004, students conducted interviews and collected data on demographics, self reported pathways into homelessness, social and medical problems, and service use, before and after becoming homeless.
Results
among 120 recently homeless adults, (male 88%, Dutch 50%, average age 38 years, mean duration of homelessness 23 weeks), the main reported pathways into homelessness were evictions 38%, relationship problems 35%, prison 6% and other reasons 22%. Compared to the relationship group, the eviction group was slightly older (average age 39.6 versus 35.5 years; p = 0.08), belonged more often to a migrant group (p = 0.025), and reported more living single (p < 0,001), more financial debts (p = 0.009), more alcohol problems (p = 0.048) and more contacts with debt control services (p = 0.009). The relationship group reported more domestic conflicts (p < 0.001) and tended to report more drug (cocaine) problems. Before homelessness, in the total group, contacts with any social service were 38% and with any medical service 27%. Despite these contacts they did not keep their house. During homelessness only contacts with social work and benefit agencies increased, contacts with medical services remained low.
Conclusion
the recently homeless fit the overall profile of the homeless population in Amsterdam: single (Dutch) men, around 40 years, with a mix of financial debts, addiction, mental and/or physical health problems. Contacts with services were fragmented and did not prevent homelessness. For homelessness prevention, systematic and outreach social medical care before and during homelessness should be provided.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-3
PMCID: PMC2628651  PMID: 19128448
22.  Selecting effective incentive structures in health care: A decision framework to support health care purchasers in finding the right incentives to drive performance 
Background
The Ontario health care system is devolving planning and funding authority to community based organizations and moving from steering through rules and regulations to steering on performance. As part of this transformation, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) are interested in using incentives as a strategy to ensure alignment – that is, health service providers' goals are in accord with the goals of the health system. The objective of the study was to develop a decision framework to assist policymakers in choosing and designing effective incentive systems.
Methods
The first part of the study was an extensive review of the literature to identify incentives models that are used in the various health care systems and their effectiveness. The second part was the development of policy principles to ensure that the used incentive models are congruent with the values of the Ontario health care system. The principles were developed by reviewing the Ontario policy documents and through discussions with policymakers. The validation of the principles and the suggested incentive models for use in Ontario took place at two meetings. The first meeting was with experts from the research and policy community, the second with senior policymakers from the MOHLTC. Based on the outcome of those two meetings, the researchers built a decision framework for incentives. The framework was send to the participants of both meetings and four additional experts for validation.
Results
We identified several models that have proven, with a varying degree of evidence, to be effective in changing or enabling a health provider's performance. Overall, the literature suggests that there is no single best approach to create incentives yet and the ability of financial and non-financial incentives to achieve results depends on a number of contextual elements. After assessing the initial set of incentive models on their congruence with the four policy principles we defined nine incentive models to be appropriate for use in Ontario and potentially other health care systems that want to introduce incentives to improve performance. Subsequently, the models were incorporated in the resulting decision framework.
Conclusion
The design of an incentive must reflect the values and goals of the health care system, be well matched to the performance objectives and reflect a range of contextual factors that can influence the effectiveness of even well-designed incentives. As a consequence, a single policy recommendation around incentives is inappropriate. The decision framework provides health care policymakers and purchasers with a tool to support the selection of an incentive model that is the most appropriate to improve the targeted performance.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-66
PMCID: PMC2329630  PMID: 18371198
23.  Psychometric Properties of the Dutch Version of the Hospital-Level Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey® Instrument 
Health Services Research  2006;41(1):284-301.
Objectives
To assess the reliability and validity of a translated version of the American Hospital-level Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey® (H-CAHPS) instrument for use in Dutch health care.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Primary survey data from adults aged 18 years or more who were recently discharged from two multispecialty city hospitals in the Netherlands.
Study Design
We used forward and backward translation procedures and a panel of experts to adapt the 66-item pilot H-CAHPS into a 70-item Dutch instrument. Descriptive statistics and standard psychometric methods were then used to test the reliability and validity of the new instrument.
Data Collection
From late November 2003 to early January 2004, the survey was administered by mail to 1,996 patients discharged within the previous 2 months.
Principal Findings
Analyses supported the reliability and validity of the following 7-factor H-CAHPS structure for use in Dutch hospitals: on doctor's communication, nurses' communication, discharge information, communication about medication, pain control, physical environment of hospital, and nursing services. The internal consistency reliability of the scales ranged from 0.60 to 0.88. Items related to “family receiving help when on visit,” “hospital staff introducing self,” and “admission delays” did not improve the psychometric properties of the new instrument.
Conclusions
These findings suggest that the H-CAHPS instrument is reliable and valid for use in the Dutch context. However, more research will be needed to support its equivalence to the United States version, and its use for between-hospital comparisons.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2005.00462.x
PMCID: PMC1681536  PMID: 16430612
CAHPS®; hospitals; Dutch health care; patient experiences of care; cross-cultural translation
24.  Suboptimal asthma care for immigrant children: results of an audit study 
Background
Little is known on the scope and nature of ethnic inequalities in suboptimal asthma care for children. This study aimed to assess (1) ethnic differences in suboptimal asthma care for children with an asthma exacerbation who consulted a physician, and (2) ethnic differences in the nature of suboptimal care.
Methods
All children aged 6–16 years who during a period of six months consulted the paediatric department of the Academic Medical Centre-University of Amsterdam or one of the six regional primary care centres with an asthma exacerbation were included. Clinical guidelines were systematically converted to review criteria following the strategy as proposed by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. Based upon these review criteria and their experience experts of two multidisciplinary panels retrospectively assessed the quality of care and its (possible) failure to prevent the occurrence of asthma exacerbation.
Results
Only a small number of children (n = 35) were included in the analysis as a result of which the ethnic differences in suboptimal care were not significant. However, the results do indicate immigrant children, in particular 'other non-Western' children (n = 11), more frequently to receive suboptimal care related to the asthma exacerbation when compared to ethnic Dutch children. Furthermore, we found the nature of suboptimal care to differ with under-prescribing in the 'other non-Western' group (n = 11), lack of information exchange between physicians in the Surinamese/Antillean group (n = 12) and lack of education, and counselling of patients and parents in the ethnic Dutch (n = 12) as the most relevant factor.
Conclusion
Ethnic inequalities in the scope and nature of suboptimal asthma care for children in the Netherlands seem to exist. For the non-western immigrant groups the results indicate the importance of the prescription behaviour of the medical doctor, as well as the supervision by one health care provider.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-22
PMCID: PMC2254382  PMID: 18218104
25.  Capacity management of nursing staff as a vehicle for organizational improvement 
Background
Capacity management systems create insight into required resources like staff and equipment. For inpatient hospital care, capacity management requires information on beds and nursing staff capacity, on a daily as well as annual basis. This paper presents a comprehensive capacity model that gives insight into required nursing staff capacity and opportunities to improve capacity utilization on a ward level.
Methods
A capacity model was developed to calculate required nursing staff capacity. The model used historical bed utilization, nurse-patient ratios, and parameters concerning contract hours to calculate beds and nursing staff needed per shift and the number of nurses needed on an annual basis in a ward. The model was applied to three different capacity management problems on three separate groups of hospital wards. The problems entailed operational, tactical, and strategic management issues: optimizing working processes on pediatric wards, predicting the consequences of reducing length of stay on nursing staff required on a cardiology ward, and calculating the nursing staff consequences of merging two internal medicine wards.
Results
It was possible to build a model based on easily available data that calculate the nursing staff capacity needed daily and annually and that accommodate organizational improvements. Organizational improvement processes were initiated in three different groups of wards. For two pediatric wards, the most important improvements were found to be improving working processes so that the agreed nurse-patient ratios could be attained. In the second case, for a cardiology ward, what-if analyses with the model showed that workload could be substantially lowered by reducing length of stay. The third case demonstrated the possible savings in capacity that could be achieved by merging two small internal medicine wards.
Conclusion
A comprehensive capacity model was developed and successfully applied to support capacity decisions on operational, tactical, and strategic levels. It appeared to be a useful tool for supporting discussions between wards and hospital management by giving objective and quantitative insight into staff and bed requirements. Moreover, the model was applied to initiate organizational improvements, which resulted in more efficient capacity utilization.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-196
PMCID: PMC2228295  PMID: 18053136

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