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How Complexity Science Can Inform a Reflective Process for Improvement in Primary Care Practices

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Abstract:

Background: Quality improvement processes have sometimes met with limited success in small, independent primary care settings. The theoretical framework for these processes uses an implied understanding of organizations as predictable with potentially controllable components. However, most organizations are not accurately described using this framework. Complexity science provides a better fit for understanding small primary care practices.

Methods: The Multimethod Assessment Process (MAP)/Reflective Adaptive Process (RAP) is informed by complexity science. This process was developed in a series of studies designed to understand and improve primary care practice. A case example illustrates the application and impact of the MAP/RAP process.

Results: Guiding principles for a reflective change process include the following: an understanding of practices' vision and mission is useful in guiding change, learning and reflection helps organizations adapt to and plan change, tension and discomfort are essential and normal during change, and diverse perspectives foster adaptability and new insights for positive change.

Discussion: A reflective change process that treats organizations as complex adaptive systems may help practices make sustainable improvements

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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