Cover: Spread Tools

Spread Tools

A Systematic Review of Components, Uptake, and Effectiveness of Quality Improvement Toolkits

Published in: Implementation Science, Volume 14, Article number 83 (2019). doi: 10.1186/s13012-019-0929-8

Posted on Jun 7, 2022

by Susanne Hempel, Claire E. O'Hanlon, Yee-Wei Lim, Marjorie Danz, Jody Larkin, Lisa V. Rubenstein


The objective was to conduct a systematic review of toolkit evaluations intended to spread interventions to improve healthcare quality. We aimed to determine the components, uptake, and effectiveness of publicly available toolkits.


We searched PubMed, CINAHL, and the Web of Science from 2005 to May 2018 for evaluations of publicly available toolkits, used a forward search of known toolkits, screened references, and contacted topic experts. Two independent reviewers screened publications for inclusion. One reviewer abstracted data and appraised the studies, checked by a second reviewer; reviewers resolved disagreements through discussion. Findings, summarized in comprehensive evidence tables and narrative synthesis addressed the uptake and utility, procedural and organizational outcomes, provider outcomes, and patient outcomes.


In total, 77 studies evaluating 72 toolkits met inclusion criteria. Toolkits addressed a variety of quality improvement approaches and focused on clinical topics such as weight management, fall prevention, vaccination, hospital-acquired infections, pain management, and patient safety. Most toolkits included introductory and implementation material (e.g., research summaries) and healthcare provider tools (e.g., care plans), and two-thirds included material for patients (e.g., information leaflets). Pre-post studies were most common (55%); 10% were single hospital evaluations and the number of participating staff ranged from 17 to 704. Uptake data were limited and toolkit uptake was highly variable. Studies generally indicated high satisfaction with toolkits, but the perceived usefulness of individual tools varied. Across studies, 57% reported on adherence to clinical procedures and toolkit effects were positive. Provider data were reported in 40% of studies but were primarily self-reported changes. Only 29% reported patient data and, overall, results from robust study designs are missing from the evidence base.


The review documents publicly available toolkits and their components. Available uptake data are limited but indicate variability. High satisfaction with toolkits can be achieved but the usefulness of individual tools may vary. The existing evidence base on the effectiveness of toolkits remains limited. While emerging evidence indicates positive effects on clinical processes, more research on toolkit value and what affects it is needed, including linking toolkits to objective provider behavior measures and patient outcomes.

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