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BMJ Qual Saf 20:i1-i4 doi:10.1136/bmjqs.2011.051672
  • Commentary

Planning and leading a multidisciplinary colloquium to explore the epistemology of improvement

Open Access
  1. Vin McLoughlin3
  1. 1The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
  2. 2Emeritus Professor, Medical School, University College, London, UK
  3. 3The Health Foundation, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Paul Batalden, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH 03766, USA; paul.batalden{at}gmail.com

After a multiyear planning process, the Vin McLoughlin Colloquium on the Epistemology of Improving Quality convened on 12–16 April 2010 at Cliveden, near London, England. This supplement offers an insight into the preparation for the meeting, the thinking that went into it and the implications of the work.

Preparing for the Colloquium

In 1982, W Edwards Deming suggested that complementary knowledge domains were important in improving quality.1 Taking that insight into healthcare, Batalden and Stoltz later suggested that traditional improvement was driven by intellectual disciplines that differed substantially from continual improvement2 (figure 1).

Figure 1

Linked knowledge systems for continual improvement.

This suggestion of different knowledge domains that might potentially complement traditional health professional knowledge and action has energised the learning and practice of healthcare leaders throughout the world.3–5

For several years preceding the Colloquium, colleagues met at the International Forums on Quality Improvement in Health Care to explore the diverse knowledge systems and controversies that underpin system-level, data-driven improvement research and practice. At the conclusion of the Paris meeting (2008), the idea of organising a more formal exploration of these different ways of knowing and their implications emerged in conversation.

International advisory planning group and inviting the right mix of people and disciplines

The initial group of colleagues convened at an international planning committee. The committee's charter was to (1) review and react to the proposed plan for the project and help steer development of the programme; (2) offer advice and counsel about relevant knowledge disciplines, possible participants and reactors; and (3) help connect the project to the communities of interest known better to the advisors than the project staff.

The committee agreed that each Colloquium participant should come prepared to discuss the following questions:

  1. What types of knowledge their disciplines value, what methods those disciplines use to build that knowledge, and what are the ways by which they assess the validity, reliability, and …

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