How to report and assess quality improvement studies 

Detailed, structured reporting findings of QI activities within the scientific literature has the potential to progress QI practice within healthcare through contributions to an expanding evidence base.

The Standards for QUality Improvement Reporting Excellence (SQUIRE) group developed detailed guidance for reporting evaluations of QI interventions within a standardised format. This can help report writers but also reviewers. The SQUIRE guidelines are available on the SQUIRE website with detailed information on how to develop a report including a Quality improvement report submission template (16kb docx).

This interactive template addressed four critical questions about the QI activities:

  1. Why did you start?
  2. What did you do?
  3. What did you find?, and
  4. What does it mean?

There are also a variety of critical appraisal tools that can be used to assess the quality and the applicability of intervention outcomes to a localised context. The Quality Improvement Minimum Quality Criteria Set (QI-MQCS) [1] is an example of a validated and reliable critical appraisal tool for assessment of QI intervention publications within the scientific literature. This tool assists reviewers to identify higher-quality studies.

QI-MQCS provides a framework for critical appraisal in which staff can evaluate levels of quality by assessing and scoring against minimum standards for 16 content domains, including:

  • Adherence / Fidelity
  • Comparator Description
  • Data Sources
  • Health Outcomes
  • Implementation
  • Intervention description and rationale
  • Organisational characteristics, motivation and readiness
  • Penetration and reach
  • Spread and limitations
  • Study design
  • Sustainability, and
  • Timing.

Both the SQUIRE and the QI-MQCS can be helpful when considering the relevance, quality and rigor of the QI studies found in the CareSearch Grey Literature database.

  1. Hempel S, Shekelle PG, Liu JL, Sherwood Danz M, Foy R, Lim YW, et al. Development of the Quality Improvement Minimum Quality Criteria Set (QI-MQCS): a tool for critical appraisal of quality improvement intervention publications. BMJ Qual Saf. 2015 Dec;24(12):796-804. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2014-003151. Epub 2015 Aug 26.

Last updated 24 August 2021