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Consensus publication guidelines
Consensus publication guidelines: the next step in the science of quality improvement?
  1. R G Thomson
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor R G Thomson
 Director of Epidemiology and Research, National Patient Safety Agency and Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Newcastle upon Tyne Medical School, UK;

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The time is ripe for a formal structured review of guidance on quality improvement reports

Samuel Beckett wrote “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Fiona Moss and I tried some time ago to produce a structure for publication of quality improvement reports on behalf of this journal that would facilitate and encourage their publication;1 the BMJ subsequently adopted the structure for their authors.2 Now, several years on from these first attempts, Davidoff and Batalden suggest new publication guidelines that build on this earlier version.3 These should be welcomed—in the spirit of improvement and intellectual evolution, it would be very surprising if the first attempt were to remain unchanged and unchallenged.

Before commenting on their proposals, it is worth reflecting on the original purpose of the development of quality improvement reports. This was based on the demand, within an emerging science and practice of quality improvement, for shared learning and dissemination of good practice. Those in the field knew that there were many excellent examples of successful projects where real changes had been made with demonstrable impact upon patient care, but that these examples were rarely disseminated such that others could draw upon this experience.

Why was this? As Davidoff and Batalden3 point out, one reason was the nature of the people responsible for quality improvement work—they are often highly committed people …

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