Aim: This study, part of the Methods of Assessing Response to Quality Improvement Strategies (MARQuIS) research project focusing on cross-border patients in Europe, investigated quality policies and improvement in healthcare systems across the European Union (EU). The aim was to develop a classification scheme for the level of quality improvement (maturity) in EU hospitals, in order to evaluate hospitals according to the maturity of their quality improvement activities.
Methods: A web-based questionnaire survey designed to measure quality improvement in EU hospitals was used as the basis for the classification scheme. Items included for the development of an evaluation tool--the maturity index--were considered important contributors to quality improvement. The four-stage quality cycle (plan, do, check and act) was used to determine the level of maturity of the various items. Psychometric properties of the classification scheme were assessed, and validation analyses were performed.
Results: A total of 389 hospitals participated in a questionnaire survey; response rates varied by country. For a final sample of 349 hospitals, it was possible to construct a quality improvement maturity index which consisted of seven domains and 113 items. The results of independent analyses sustained the validity of the index, which was useful in differentiating between hospitals in the research sample according to the maturity of their quality improvement system (defined as the total of all quality improvement activities).
Discussion: Further research is recommended to develop an instrument which for use in the future as a practical tool to evaluate the maturity of hospital quality improvement systems.