Background: Small practices often lack the human, financial and technical resources to make necessary practice improvements and infrastructure investments in order to achieve sustainable change that promotes quality and efficiency.
Aims: To report on an effort to assist small primary care practices in improving quality of care and efficiency of practice management to meet the needs of patients, improve physician satisfaction and enhance the ability of these small practices to survive.
Methods: We report on an intervention design and the reflections of the implementers on what they learned and what went well or poorly during implementation. Results of the intervention are reported separately (in Quality in Primary Care). Thirty practices underwent the entire intervention. The practices were selected on the basis of practice size, diversity in patient factors, apparent dedication to making practice improvements and geographic location. The main components of the intervention were two site visits to the participating practices by Center for Practice Innovation (CPI); now known as the Centre for Practice Improvement and Innovation, team members. The CPI team provided ongoing advice and support in focus areas selected by practices after initial site visit and assessment.
Results: A customised session focusing on the practice report and on helping practices to think about which areas they wished to improve was more effective in engaging practices than didactic presentation. Quality and practice management improvements were observed in information posting, patient education, staff communication and patient safety practices. Having a strong physician champion and a strong office manager determined to make quality improvement changes were important elements for successful change. In addition, practices with greater stability of staff and strong finances were more likely to meet project goals.
Conclusions: Small practices today are facing a range of important challenges. The CPI sought to provide successful guidance to small practices with evidence of positive change in some clinical measures, patient satisfaction and practice motivation to implement quality of care and practice management improvements.