A review of hospital characteristics associated with improved performance

Int J Qual Health Care. 2012 Oct;24(5):483-94. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzs044. Epub 2012 Aug 7.


Purpose: The objective of this review was to critically appraise the literature relating to associations between high-level structural and operational hospital characteristics and improved performance.

Data sources: The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE (Ovid), CINAHL, proQuest and PsychINFO were searched for articles published between January 1996 and May 2010. Reference lists of included articles were reviewed and key journals were hand searched for relevant articles.

Study selection: and data extraction Studies were included if they were systematic reviews or meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, controlled before and after studies or observational studies (cohort and cross-sectional) that were multicentre, comparative performance studies. Two reviewers independently extracted data, assigned grades of evidence according to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines and critically appraised the included articles. Data synthesis Fifty-seven studies were reported within 12 systematic reviews and 47 observational articles. There was heterogeneity in use and definition of performance outcomes. Hospital characteristics investigated were environment (incentives, market characteristics), structure (network membership, ownership, teaching status, geographical setting, service size) and operational design (innovativeness, leadership, organizational culture, public reporting and patient safety practices, information technology systems and decision support, service activity and planning, workforce design, staff training and education). The strongest evidence for an association with overall performance was identified for computerized physician order entry systems. Some evidence supported the associations with workforce design, use of financial incentives, nursing leadership and hospital volume.

Conclusion: There is limited, mainly low-quality evidence, supporting the associations between hospital characteristics and healthcare performance. Further characteristic-specific systematic reviews are indicated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment
  • Hospital Administration*
  • Humans
  • Information Systems
  • Leadership
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*