Impacts of continuous quality improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander primary health care in Australia: A scoping systematic review
Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Purpose Continuous quality improvement (CQI) programmes have been taken up widely by indigenous primary health care services in Australia, but as yet there has not been a systematic assessment of their focus and achievements. A scoping review of the literature from studies of CQI in indigenous primary health care services was undertaken to explore impacts on service systems, care and client outcomes with the aim of providing guidance on future evaluation efforts. The paper aims to discuss these issues,
Design/methodology/approach Searches were conducted in MEDLINE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews to December 2016 and handsearching of key websites and publications. Studies of CQI programs or activities in Indigenous primary health care services which demonstrated some combination of CQI characteristics, as described by Rubenstein (2013) were included. A two-stage approach to analysis was undertaken. Stage 1 identified the range and scope of literature, and Stage 2 investigated impacts to service systems, care and client outcomes. The Framework for Performance Assessment in Primary Health Care was used to frame the Stage 2 analysis.
Findings The majority of Aboriginal community controlled health services have been involved in CQI but there are gaps in knowledge about uptake in general practice and government clinics. There are as many baseline studies as studies on impacts over time. Of the 14 studies included for further analysis, 6 reported on impacts on service systems; all 14 reported on impacts on care and 6 on client outcomes. Changes to services systems are variable and studies of impacts on care and client outcomes show promising though uneven improvements. There are no economic studies or studies addressing community engagement in CQI activities.
Research limitations/implications To supplement existing limited knowledge about which service system change strategies are effective and sustainable for which problems in which settings, there needs to be investment in research and development. Research needs to be grounded in the realities of service delivery and contribute to the development of CQI capacity at the service level. Knowledge translation needs to be built into implementation to ensure maximum benefit to those endeavouring on a daily basis to constantly reflect on and improve the quality of the care they deliver to clients, and to the stewardship structures supporting services at regional, state/territory and national levels.
Practical implications Improved approaches, methods, data capture and reporting arrangements are needed to enhance existing activity and to ensure maximum benefit to services endeavouring to reflect on and improve quality of care and to the stewardship structure supporting services at regional, state/territory and national levels.
Originality/value Although there is a growing body of research evidence about CQI both nationally and internationally, and considerable investment by the federal government in Australia to support CQI as part of routine practice, there has not been a systematic assessment of the achievements of CQI in Indigenous primary health care services. Many unanswered questions remain about the extent of uptake, implementation and impacts. This is a barrier to future investment and regional and local programme design, monitoring and evaluation. The authors conducted a scoping review to address these questions. From this, the authors draw conclusions about the state of knowledge in Australia with a view to informing how future CQI research and evaluation might be intensified.