In contrast with the primary goals of science, which are to discover and disseminate new knowledge, the primary goal of improvement is to change performance. Unfortunately, scholarly accounts of the methods, experiences, and results of most medical quality improvement work are not published, either in print or electronic form. In our view this failure to publish is a serious deficiency: it limits the available evidence on efficacy, prevents critical scrutiny, deprives staff of the opportunity and incentive to clarify thinking, slows dissemination of established improvements, inhibits discovery of innovations, and compromises the ethical obligation to return valuable information to the public.The reasons for this failure are many: competing service responsibilities of and lack of academic rewards for improvement staff; editors’ and peer reviewers’ unfamiliarity with improvement goals and methods; and lack of publication guidelines that are appropriate for rigorous, scholarly improvement work. We propose here a draft set of guidelines designed to help with writing, reviewing, editing, interpreting, and using such reports. We envisage this draft as the starting point for collaborative development of more definitive guidelines. We suggest that medical quality improvement will not reach its full potential unless accurate and transparent reports of improvement work are published frequently and widely.
- quality improvement
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