The COVID-19 pandemic has forced health care services and systems to make substantial, rapid changes to the ways in which they operate. It is likely that many of these changes will be retained in the post-COVID-19 era. Using digital technologies to access non-urgent health care services, for example, is unlikely to be fully relinquished in favour of a return to in-person appointments, although some patient–health care provider interactions will inevitably continue to require face-to-face consultations.

Doing things differently opens up opportunities for doing things more effectively and efficiently, provided that the risks associated with new models of care are identified and successfully managed. For example, effective transition to remote patient consultations and monitoring at scale requires the training of frontline staff to ensure that high quality is maintained. This includes training to avoid the risks that remote consultations and monitoring can give rise to, such as missing cues from patients that may be picked up more readily in face-to-face interactions. It also means evaluating these new ways of doing things, to ensure that they work as well as intended for all the groups involved.

This evolution in service delivery offers important opportunities for improving care quality and patient experience in many areas—remote maternity care or the remote monitoring of patients with diabetes being just two examples. Making the most of these opportunities, it will be important to ensure that the evidence base on how quality improvement happens and what influences its success is incorporated into decisionmaking.

Recent RAND Europe research considers six key influences on improvement processes that need to be in place to support quality improvement in health care organisations. The insights from this research may be particularly pertinent to engage with at the present time, as health care services try to respond to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and move to new service delivery models while sustaining some traditional ways of operating.

Read the full article about improvement processes in healthcare by Sonja Marjanovic, Gemma-Claire Ali and Emily Ryen Gloinson at RAND.