The impact of accreditation on healthcare quality improvement: a qualitative case study

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Research on accreditation has mostly focused on assessing its impact using large scale quantitative studies, yet little is known on how quality is improved in practice through an accreditation process. Using a case study of an acute teaching hospital in Portugal, the article aims at exploring the dynamics through which accreditation can lead to an improvement in the quality of healthcare services provided.

Data for the case study was collected through 46 in-depth semi-structured interviews with 49 clinical and non-clinical members of staff. Data were analysed using a framework thematic analysis.

Interviewees felt that hospital accreditation contributed to the improvement of healthcare quality in general, and more specifically to patient safety, as it fostered staff reflection, a higher standardization of practices, and a greater focus on quality improvement. However, findings also suggest that the positive impact of accreditation resulted from the approach the hospital adopted in its implementation as well as the fact that several of the procedures and practices required by accreditation were already in place at the hospital, albeit often in an informal way.

Research limitations/implications
The study was conducted in only one hospital. The design of an accreditation implementation plan tailored to the hospital’s context can significantly contribute to positive outcomes in terms of quality and patient safety improvements.

This study provides a better understanding of how accreditation can contribute to healthcare quality improvement. It offers important lessons on the factors and processes that potentiate quality improvements through accreditation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1242 - 1258
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Health, Organisation and Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2016


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