The Health Foundation is an independent charity working to continuously improve the quality of heatlhcare in the UK

Improvement science

Improvement science researches effective techniques, strategies and theories that can then be used widely by many teams in different settings to undertake quality improvement well.

In this section, you can find information on:

  • why the Health Foundation is leading this exciting, emerging discipline
  • what we are doing
  • what we want to achieve.

The need for evidence

Many people are working to improve healthcare quality – to bring about safer, more beneficial and cost-effective care for patients.

But all too often, there is little evidence to support what they do or demonstrate precisely which improvement projects, methods and techniques really work best.

So it is hard to ensure effective practice is widely adopted.

Leading the development of improvement science

The Health Foundation is now taking the lead in this area.

We are leading the development and application of a sound knowledge base to improving healthcare quality, safety and value to ensure successful improvements can be adopted and spread across the breadth of healthcare services.

We want to take a more scientifically rigorous approach to the development, evaluation and dissemination of improvement methods.

We call this activity improvement science.

Why improvement science?

Much health services research examines improvements in the way health services are financed, organised, planned and delivered, and includes health technology assessments and health policy research.

Improvement science applies research methods to pin-point transferrable improvement methods.

It researches effective techniques, strategies and theories that can then be used widely by many teams in different settings to undertake quality improvement well.

Understanding complexity

To help build this knowledge we need to understand all the interlinked factors that potentially impact on health quality.

So improvement science embraces any number of academic disciplines- from sociology to statistics, philosophy to psychology, engineering to epidemiology , to name a few.

Why is this work needed now?

The Health Foundation aims to support health service researchers and practitioners to build the evidence base for improvement and ensure policymakers act on evidence.

Healthcare improvement work over the past 15 years or so has not achieved as much as many had hoped and the best improvement practices have not been taken up widely enough. We believe the need for evidence to support healthcare improvement is now greater than ever.

As health services are pressed to deliver better quality services within limited funds and as healthcare activity becomes more complex, we need to develop a stronger scientific understanding of how to bring about effective improvement.

Our aim

By developing improvement science as an academic discipline we want to:

  • help build a practical and accessible body of knowledge about what does and doesn’t work to improve healthcare
  • help those working in healthcare to translate this knowledge into practice to deliver the best possible care.

Our work

Our work in improvement science consists of:

  • Nick Barber explains why improvement science is important

    Nick Barber on improvement science.mp4
    Martin Marshall improvement science.gif
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