Background: Research on the transfer of medical technology and guidelines suggests that this transfer is driven more by interpersonal relationships than by new research or available information and that it is inconsistent, largely unsuccessful, and strongly influenced by local factors. Yet studies of collaborative, multiple-hospital improvement efforts have shown these transfers to be effective for the specific microsystems participating in the project. The diffusion of medical innovations beyond the participating teams was studied during a 2000-2001 national collaborative safety improvement effort.
Methods: Twenty-two teams from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals participated in a 9-month quality improvement project designed to improve safety in high-hazard areas. Participating hospitals and other regional hospitals were contacted to determine the level of dissemination of information generated during and after the project.
Results: While the participating hospitals benefited from the quality improvement effort, changes were implemented only 9% of the time on other units within the hospitals and only 2% of the time in other regional hospitals. After 12 months, there was no implementation within participating hospitals, and other regional hospitals were implementing changes 10% of the time.
Discussion: Personal commitment from senior leadership, dissemination strategies that push information to clinicians, and monitoring of progress at the regional level are all needed for dissemination of complex medical information to occur.