Planning and Studying Improvement in Patient Care: The Use of Theoretical Perspectives


Address correspondence to: Richard Grol, Centre for Quality of Care Research (WOK), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (UMCN), KWAZO 117, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, the Netherlands (email:


A consistent finding in articles on quality improvement in health care is that change is difficult to achieve. According to the research literature, the majority of interventions are targeted at health care professionals. But success in achieving change may be influenced by factors other than those relating to individual professionals, and theories may help explain whether change is possible. This article argues for a more systematic use of theories in planning and evaluating quality-improvement interventions in clinical practice. It demonstrates how different theories can be used to generate testable hypotheses regarding factors that influence the implementation of change, and it shows how different theoretical assumptions lead to different quality-improvement strategies.