Background The Standards for Quality Improvement Reporting Excellence (SQUIRE) Guideline was published in 2008 (SQUIRE 1.0) and was the first publication guideline specifically designed to advance the science of healthcare improvement. Advances in the discipline of improvement prompted us to revise it. We adopted a novel approach to the revision by asking end-users to ‘road test’ a draft version of SQUIRE 2.0. The aim was to determine whether they understood and implemented the guidelines as intended by the developers.
Methods Forty-four participants were assigned a manuscript section (ie, introduction, methods, results, discussion) and asked to use the draft Guidelines to guide their writing process. They indicated the text that corresponded to each SQUIRE item used and submitted it along with a confidential survey. The survey examined usability of the Guidelines using Likert-scaled questions and participants’ interpretation of key concepts in SQUIRE using open-ended questions. On the submitted text, we evaluated concordance between participants’ item usage/interpretation and the developers’ intended application. For the survey, the Likert-scaled responses were summarised using descriptive statistics and the open-ended questions were analysed by content analysis.
Results Consistent with the SQUIRE Guidelines’ recommendation that not every item be included, less than one-third (n=14) of participants applied every item in their section in full. Of the 85 instances when an item was partially used or was omitted, only 7 (8.2%) of these instances were due to participants not understanding the item. Usage of Guideline items was highest for items most similar to standard scientific reporting (ie, ‘Specific aim of the improvement’ (introduction), ‘Description of the improvement’ (methods) and ‘Implications for further studies’ (discussion)) and lowest (<20% of the time) for those unique to healthcare improvement (ie, ‘Assessment methods for context factors that contributed to success or failure’ and ‘Costs and strategic trade-offs’). Items unique to healthcare improvement, specifically ‘Evolution of the improvement’, ‘Context elements that influenced the improvement’, ‘The logic on which the improvement was based’, ‘Process and outcome measures’, demonstrated poor concordance between participants’ interpretation and developers’ intended application.
Conclusions User testing of a draft version of SQUIRE 2.0 revealed which items have poor concordance between developer intent and author usage, which will inform final editing of the Guideline and development of supporting supplementary materials. It also identified the items that require special attention when teaching about scholarly writing in healthcare improvement.