Introduction: Well-organised practices deliver higher-quality care. Yet there has been very little effort so far to help primary care organisations achieve higher levels of team performance and to help them identify and prioritise areas where quality improvement efforts should be concentrated. No attempt at all has been made to achieve a method which would be capable of providing comparisons--and the stimulus for further improvement--at an international level.
Methods: The development of the International Family Practice Maturity Matrix took place in three phases: (1) selection and refinement of organisational dimensions; (2) development of incremental scales based on a recognised theoretical framework; and (3) testing the feasibility of the approach on an international basis, including generation of an automated web-based benchmarking system.
Results: This work has demonstrated the feasibility of developing an organisational assessment tool for primary care organisations that is sufficiently generic to cross international borders and is applicable across a diverse range of health settings, from state-organised systems to insurer-based health economies. It proved possible to introduce this assessment method in 11 countries in Europe and one in Africa, and to generate comparison benchmarks based on the data collected. The evaluation of the assessment process was uniformly positive with the view that the approach efficiently enables the identification of priorities for organisational development and quality improvement at the same time as motivating change by virtue of the group dynamics.
Conclusions: We are not aware of any other organisational assessment method for primary care which has been 'born international,' and that has involved attention to theory, dimension selection and item refinement. The principal aims were to achieve an organisational assessment which gains added value by using interaction, engagement comparative benchmarks: aims which have been achieved. The next step is to achieve wider implementation and to ensure that those who undertake the assessment method ensure linkages are made to planned investment in organisational development and quality improvement. Knowing the problems is only half the story.