The Health Foundation is leading the development and application of a sound knowledge base to improving health care quality, safety and value. Find out more about our work to develop the field of improvement research and the establishment of THIS Institute (The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute) in January 2018.
What is improvement research?
Improvement research builds and utilises knowledge to improve the quality of health services directly providing patient care for the benefit of patients and populations who may use those services in future. This academic field draws on a range of disciplines in combination with the insights of those delivering and receiving health services. It aims to understand, help develop, and evaluate improvements to health care practices and policies.
It has a strong translational component – with those who research, deliver and receive health care working together to create impact.
Why improvement research?
Achieving high quality care at sustainable cost is a global aim and challenge. Health systems that are able to develop faster discovery and learning mechanisms will be in a better position to achieve that aim. Improvement research has huge potential to understand how sustainable and replicable improvements to health services can be made effectively and faster to benefit patients.
What have we achieved so far?
The Health Foundation’s early initiatives in this field were described as ‘improvement science’ – a term that successfully encouraged a wide range of academic disciplines to come together to pursue structured approaches to quality improvement. As the field has evolved, so has our thinking. We believe that this field of research needs to draw on the sciences and other forms of generating knowledge and understanding, hence our move to the term improvement research.
The Health Foundation’s investment in and promotion of improvement science has improved care and altered national policy. Our work has included:
- building an expert reference group (the Improvement Science Development Group)
- funding Improvement Science Fellowships to produce leaders in world class research
- funding PhD studentships to support the long-term development of this field
- a partnership with the BMJ publishing group to co-own the BMJ Quality and Safety journal.
- a joint series of papers with the BMJ exploring how to improve the quality of health care delivery.
Since their appointment in 2011, the first cohort of Improvement Science Fellows have secured £23 million in additional funding for their organisations, produced 54 academic papers, published four books and won six awards. You can read more about the achievements of two of our fellows from this cohort, Tim Draycott and Davina Allen.
Establishing The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute
In January 2018 the Health Foundation established THIS Institute (The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute), an improvement research institute that will develop evidence on a massive scale across the NHS about what works to improve patient care.
Led by Mary Dixon-Woods FAcSS FMedSci FRCP (Hon), Health Foundation Professor of Healthcare Improvement Studies and Wellcome Trust Investigator at the University of Cambridge, the institute will work closely with RAND Europe and Homerton College, Cambridge, and a wide range of other partners in the health service, university and charity sectors across the UK.
The Health Foundation will fund the institute in the region of £40m over 10 years to support its set-up and development, with the aim that it will ultimately become self-sustaining.
THIS Institute aims to create a world-leading asset for the NHS and for science by strengthening the evidence base for improving health care.
To find out more, visit the THIS Institute website.