Linking Quality Improvement Practices to Knowledge Management Capabilities

Quality Management Journal vol. 21 issue 1 - January 2014

Abstract: [This abstract is based on the authors' abstract.] This study examines the extent to which quality improvement initiatives (continuous quality improvement and Six Sigma) depend on knowledge management for realizing positive patient safety learning outcomes. Drawing on the knowledge management and quality management literature, this paper develops a path model for improving patient safety learning. Survey data were collected from a sample of 273 U.S. hospitals. Results indicate that a three-stage knowledge management process mediates the relationship between quality improvement initiatives and patient safety learning. While continuous quality improvement was found to also have a direct positive association with patient safety learning, Six Sigma did not demonstrate a statistically significant direct relationship to patient safety. The authors’ results provide new insight into the relationship of knowledge management capabilities and quality initiatives in health care. Hospitals are looking for evidence to help justify expenditures on various programs and also seek to identify ways to improve patient safety. The pragmatic contribution of this study for healthcare administrators lies in the application of these findings in planning quality management systems and knowledge management processes. The results contribute to the operations management literature by addressing how quality management initiatives in hospital organizations link to patient safety learning outcomes directly as well as via knowledge management capabilities. The interrelationships have not been adequately explored, and limited research discusses the effectiveness of a three-stage knowledge management process in health care.

Keywords: Continuous quality improvement (CQI); Health care; Hospitals; Healthcare industry; Knowledge management (KM); Patient Safety; Six Sigma; Quality management (QM)

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