Applying different quality and safety models in healthcare improvement work: Boundary objects and system thinking

S Wiig, G Robert, J E Anderson, Elina Pietikäinen, Teemu Reiman, L Macchi, K Aase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


A number of theoretical models can be applied to help guide quality improvement and patient safety interventions in hospitals. However there are often significant differences between such models and, therefore, their potential contribution when applied in diverse contexts. The aim of this paper is to explore how two such models have been applied by hospitals to improve quality and safety. We describe and compare the models: (1) The Organizing for Quality (OQ) model, and (2) the Design for Integrated Safety Culture (DISC) model. We analyze the theoretical foundations of the models, and show, by using a retrospective comparative case study approach from two European hospitals, how these models have been applied to improve quality and safety. The analysis shows that differences appear in the theoretical foundations, practical approaches and applications of the models. Nevertheless, the case studies indicate that the choice between the OQ and DISC models is of less importance for guiding the practice of quality and safety improvement work, as they are both systemic and share some important characteristics. The main contribution of the models lay in their role as boundary objects directing attention towards organizational and systems thinking, culture, and collaboration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-144
JournalReliability Engineering and System Safety
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Healthcare organizations
  • hospitals
  • patient safety
  • quality and safety models
  • quality improvement


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