BMJ Open 4:e005650 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005650
  • Health services research
    • Protocol

Investigating the organisational impacts of quality improvement: a protocol for a realist evaluation of improvement approaches drawing on the Resource Based View of the Firm

  1. Angela Hopkins4
  1. 1School of Healthcare Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UK
  2. 2King's College London, London, UK
  3. 3Public Health Wales, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christopher R Burton; c.burton{at}
  • Received 7 May 2014
  • Revised 4 July 2014
  • Accepted 11 July 2014
  • Published 31 July 2014


Introduction Little is understood about the role of quality improvement in enabling health organisations to survive and thrive in the contemporary context of financial and economic challenges. We will draw on the theoretical foundations of the ‘Resource Based View of the Firm’ (RBV) to develop insights into why health organisations engage in improvement work, how impacts are conceptualised, and ‘what works’ in delivering these impacts. Specifically, RBV theorises that the mix and use of resources across different organisations may explain differences in performance. Whether improvement work influences these resources is unclear.

Methods and analysis Case study research will be conducted across health organisations participating in four approaches to improvement, including: a national improvement programme; a multiorganisational partnership around implementation; an organisational strategy for quality improvement; and a coproduction project designed to enhance the experience of a clinical service from the perspective of patients. Data will comprise in-depth interviews with key informants, observation of key events and documents; analysed within and then across cases. Adopting a realist perspective, the core tenets of RBV will be evaluated as a programme theory, focusing on the interplay between organisational conditions and behavioural or resource responses that are reported through engagement in improvement.

Ethics and dissemination The study has been approved by Bangor University Ethics Committee. The investigation will not judge the relative merits of different approaches to healthcare quality improvement. Rather, we will develop unique insights into the organisational consequences, and dependencies of quality improvement, providing an opportunity to add to the explanatory potential of RBV in this and other contexts. In addition to scientific and lay reports of the study findings, research outputs will include a framework for constructing the economic impacts of quality improvement and practical guidance for health service managers that maximises the impacts of investment in quality improvement.

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