Up close and (inter)personal: insights from a primary care practice's efforts to improve office relationships over time, 2003-2009

Qual Manag Health Care. 2011 Jan-Mar;20(1):49-61. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0b013e31820311e6.


A growing body of literature suggests that interpersonal relationships between personnel in health care organizations can have an impact on the quality of care provided. Some research recommends that the fundamental practice transformation that is being urged in this current climate of health care reform may be aided by strong interpersonal practice relationships and communication. There is much to be learned, however, about what is involved in the process of addressing and improving interpersonal relationships in primary care practices. This case study offers insights into this process by examining 1 primary care practice's efforts to address interpersonal office issues over the course of its participation in 2 back-to-back quality improvement (QI) intervention studies. Our analysis is based on extensive qualitative data on this practice (observational data, interviews, and audio-recorded QI meetings) from 2003 to 2009. By tracing common themes and patterns of interaction over an extended period of time, we identify a variety of facilitators of and barriers to addressing interpersonal issues in the practice setting. We conclude by suggesting some implications from this case for future QI research.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*