Using complaints to enhance quality improvement: developing an analytical tool

Int J Health Care Qual Assur. 2012;25(5):453-61. doi: 10.1108/09526861211235946.


Purpose: This study aims to construct an instrument for identifying certain attributes or capabilities that might enable healthcare staff to use complaints to improve service quality.

Design/methodology/approach: PubMed and ProQuest were searched, which in turn expanded access to other literature. Three paramount dimensions emerged for healthcare quality management systems: managerial, operational, and technical (MOT).

Findings: The paper reveals that the managerial dimension relates to quality improvement program infrastructure. It contains strategy, structure, leadership, people and culture. The operational dimension relates to implementation processes: organizational changes and barriers when using complaints to enhance quality. The technical dimension emphasizes the skills, techniques or information systems required to achieve successfully continuous quality improvement.

Research limitations/implications: The MOT model was developed by drawing from the relevant literature. However, individuals have different training, interests and experiences and, therefore, there will be variance between researchers when generating the MOT model.

Practical implications: The MOT components can be the guidelines for examining whether patient complaints are used to improve service quality. However, the model needs testing and validating by conducting further research before becoming a theory.

Originality/value: Empirical studies on patient complaints did not identify any analytical tool that could be used to explore how complaints can drive quality improvement. This study developed an instrument for identifying certain attributes or capabilities that might enable healthcare professionals to use complaints and improve service quality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Administration*
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Organizational Culture
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Taiwan