Objective: It is widely acknowledged that the culture of medical group practices greatly influences the quality of care, but little is known about how cultures are translated into specific types of programs focused on quality. This study explores this issue by assessing the influence of the organizational culture on these types of programs in medical group practices in the upper Midwest.
Design and methods: Data were obtained from two surveys of medical group practices. The first survey was designed to assess the culture of the practice using a nine-dimension instrument developed previously. The second survey was designed to obtain organizational structure data including the programs identified by the literature as important to the quality of care in medical practices. Completed surveys were obtained from eighty-eight medical groups. The relationship of the group practice culture to structural programs focused on quality of care was analyzed using logistic regression equations.
Results: Several interesting patterns emerged. As expected, practices with a strong information culture favor electronic data systems and formal programs that provide comparative or evidence-based data to enhance their clinical practices. However, those with a quality-centered culture appear to prefer patient satisfaction surveys to assess the quality of their care, while practices that are more business-oriented rely on bureaucratic strategies such as benchmarking and physician profiling. Cultures that emphasize the autonomy of physician practice were negatively (but not at a statistically significant level) associated with all the programs studied. Practices with a highly collegial culture appear to rely on informal peer review mechanisms to assure quality rather than any of the structural programs included in this analysis.
Conclusion: This study suggests that the types of quality programs that group practices develop differ according to their cultures. Consequently, it is important for practice administrators and medical directors to develop quality assurance programs that fit their cultures if they are to gain buy-in by their clinicians. Future research should assess the effect of culture-structure fit on quality and safety outcomes.