Identifying Quality Improvement Intervention Evaluations

Is Consensus Achievable?

Published In: Quality & Safety in Health Care, v. 19, no. 4, Aug. 2010, p. 279-283

Posted on RAND.org on July 31, 2010

by Marjorie S Danz, Lisa V. Rubenstein, Susanne Hempel, Robbie Foy, Marika Booth, Melissa M. Farmer, Paul G. Shekelle

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BACKGROUND: The diversity of quality improvement interventions (QIIs) has impeded the use of evidence review to advance quality improvement activities. An agreed-upon framework for identifying QII articles would facilitate evidence review and consensus around best practices. AIM: To adapt and test evidence review methods for identifying empirical QII evaluations that would be suitable for assessing QII effectiveness, impact or success. DESIGN: Literature search with measurement of multilevel inter-rater agreement and review of disagreement. Methods Ten journals (2005-2007) were searched electronically and the output was screened based on title and abstract. Three pairs of reviewers then independently rated 22 articles, randomly selected from the screened list. Kappa statistics and percentage agreement were assessed. 12 stakeholders in quality improvement, including QII experts and journal editors, rated and discussed publications about which reviewers disagreed. RESULTS: The level of agreement among reviewers for identifying empirical evaluations of QII development, implementation or results was 73% (with a paradoxically low kappa of 0.041). Discussion by raters and stakeholders regarding how to improve agreement focused on three controversial article selection issues: no data on patient health, provider behaviour or process of care outcomes; no evidence for adaptation of an intervention to a local context; and a design using only observational methods, as correlational analyses, with no comparison group. CONCLUSION: The level of reviewer agreement was only moderate. Reliable identification of relevant articles is an initial step in assessing published evidence. Advancement in quality improvement will depend on the theory- and consensus-based development and testing of a generalizable framework for identifying QII evaluations.

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