Background: Between 2004 and 2008, 24 Dutch hospitals participated in a two-year multilevel quality collaborative (MQC) comprised of (a) a leadership programme for hospital executives, (b) six quality-improvement collaboratives (QICs) for healthcare professionals and other staff, and (c) an internal programme organisation to help senior management monitor and coordinate team progress. The MQC aimed to stimulate the development of quality-management systems and the spread of methods to improve patient safety and logistics. The objective of this study is to describe how the first group of eight MQC hospitals sustained and disseminated improvements made and the quality methods used.
Methods: The approach followed by the hospitals was described using interview and questionnaire data gathered from eight programme coordinators.
Results: MQC hospitals followed a systematic strategy of diffusion and sustainability. Hospital quality-management systems are further developed according to a model linking plan-do-study-act cycles at the unit and hospital level. The model involves quality norms based on realised successes, performance agreements with unit heads, organisational support, monitoring, and quarterly accountability reports.
Conclusions: It is concluded from this study that the MQC contributed to organisational development and dissemination within participating hospitals. Organisational learning effects were demonstrated. System changes affect the context factors in the theory of organisational readiness: organisational culture, policies and procedures, past experience, organisational resources, and organisational structure. Programme coordinator responses indicate that these factors are utilised to manage spread and sustainability. Further research is needed to assess long-term effects.