Implementation and evaluation of quality improvement training in surgery: A systematic review

Elena Pallari, Zarnie Khadjesari, David Aceituno, Catherine Anyango Odhiambo, Ross Warner, Christopher Bastianpillai, James S. A. Green, Nick Sevdalis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to review and appraise how quality improvement (QI) skills are taught to surgeons and surgical residents. BACKGROUND: There is a global drive to deliver capacity in undertaking QI within surgical services. However, there are currently no specifications regarding optimal QI content or delivery. METHODS: We reviewed QI educational intervention studies targeting surgeons or surgical trainees/residents published until 2017. Primary outcomes included teaching methods and training materials. Secondary outcomes were implementation frameworks and strategies used to deliver QI training successfully. RESULTS: There were 20,590 hits across 10 databases, of which 11,563 were screened following de-duplication. Seventeen studies were included in the final synthesis. Variable QI techniques (eg, combined QI models, process mapping, and "lean" principles) and assessment methods were found. Delivery was more consistent, typically combining didactic teaching blended with QI project delivery. Implementation of QI training was poorly reported and appears supported by collaborative approaches (including building learning collaboratives, and coalitions). Study designs were typically pre-/post-training without controls. Studies generally lacked clarity on the underpinning framework (59%), setting description (59%), content (47%), and conclusions (47%), whereas 88% scored low on psychometrics reporting. CONCLUSIONS: The evidence suggests that surgical QI training can focus on any well-established QI technique, provided it is done through a combination of didactic teaching and practical application. True effectiveness and extent of impact of QI training remain unclear, due to methodological weaknesses and inconsistent reporting. Conduct of larger-scale educational QI studies across multiple institutions can advance the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e489-e506
Number of pages18
JournalAnnals of Surgery
Issue number6
Early online date26 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Education
  • Effectiveness
  • Implementation science
  • Quality improvement
  • Surgery
  • Systematic review

Cite this