Does improving quality save money?

A review of evidence of which improvements to quality reduce costs to health service providers

September 2009

John Øvretveit
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Key points

  • The review presents evidence of a variety of quality problems in healthcare, found by research, and of their financial costs (the ‘potential savings’).
  • It then presents evidence of solutions, their effectiveness, and the intervention costs.
  • Evidence of the subsequent savings, losses or increased revenue is then presented, where there is proof that quality was maintained or increased at the same time.
  • Parts 3 and 4 consider the challenges for enablers to save through improving quality, make research-based recommendations, and propose ways to increase usable knowledge about the subject.

This report reviews the evidence of whether improving quality can also save money for health service providers. It explores the cost saving potential of initiatives to improve quality and the barriers to success.

The evidence suggests that improving quality could have an important if limited contribution to addressing financial pressures. At a local level, clinicians and managers can increase their likelihood of success by: working together to meet the challenge, using tested improvements that are adapted to local circumstances, using reported experiential evidence; measuring and monitoring the improvement, including how much it has cost and how much it has saved; and above all by managing implementation skilfully.

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