Meeting the challenge of practice quality improvement: a study of seven family medicine residency training practices

Acad Med. 2011 Dec;86(12):1583-9. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31823674fa.


Purpose: Incorporating quality improvement (QI) into resident education and clinical care is challenging. This report explores key characteristics shaping the relative success or failure of QI efforts in seven primary care practices serving as family medicine residency training sites.

Method: The authors used data from the 2002-2008 Using Learning Teams for Reflective Adaptation study to conduct a comparative case analysis. This secondary data analysis focused on seven residency training practices' experiences with the reflective adaptive process (RAP), a 12-week intensive QI process. Field notes, meeting notes, and audiotapes of RAP meetings were used to construct case summaries. A matrix comparing key themes across practices was used to rate practices' QI progress during RAP on a scale of 0 to 3.

Results: Three practices emerged as unsuccessful (scores of 0-1) and four as successful (scores of 2-3). Larger practices with previous QI experience, faculty with extensive exposure to QI literature, and an office manager, residency director, or medical director who advocated the process made substantial progress during RAP, succeeding at QI. Smaller practices without these characteristics were unable to do so. Successful practices also engaged residents in the QI process and identified serious problems as potential crises; unsuccessful practices did not.

Conclusions: Larger residency training practices are more likely to have the resources and characteristics that permit them to create a QI-supportive culture leading to QI success. The authors suggest, however, that smaller practices may increase their chances of success by adopting a developmental approach to QI.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration*
  • Male
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Quality Improvement*
  • United States