Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) programs have been taken up widely by Indigenous primary health care (PHC) services in Australia and there has been national policy commitment to support this. However, international evidence shows that implementing CQI is challenging, impacts are variable and little is known about the factors that impede or enhance effectiveness. A scoping review was undertaken to explore uptake and implementation in Indigenous PHC, including barriers and enablers to embedding CQI in routine practice. We provide guidance on how research and evaluation might be intensified to support implementation.
Searches were conducted in MEDLINE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Key websites and publications were handsearched. Studies conducted in Indigenous PHC which demonstrated some combination of CQI characteristics and assessed some aspect of implementation were included. A two stage analysis was undertaken. Stage 1 identified the breadth and focus of literature.
Stage 2 investigated barriers and enablers. The Framework for Performance Assessment in PHC (2008) was used to frame the analysis. Data were extracted on the study type, approach, timeframes, CQI strategies, barriers and enablers.
Sixty articles were included in Stage 1 and 21 in Stage 2. Barriers to implementing CQI processes relate primarily to professional and organisational processes and operate at multiple levels (individual, team, service, health system) whereas barriers to improved care relate more directly to knowledge of best practice and team processes that facilitate appropriate care. Few studies described implementation timeframes, number of CQI cycles or improvement strategies implemented and only two applied a change theory.
Investigating barriers and enablers that modify implementation and impacts of CQI poses conceptual and methodological challenges. More complete description of CQI processes, implementation strategies, and barriers and enablers could enhance capacity for comparisons across settings and contribute to better understanding of key success factors.