Conceptualising and assessing improvement capability: a review

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The literature is reviewed to examine how ‘improvement capability’ is conceptualised andassessed and to identify future areas for research.
Data Sources
An iterative and systematic search of the literature was carried out across all sectors including healthcare. The search was limited to literature written in English.
Data Extraction
The study identifies and analyses 70 instruments and frameworks for assessing or measuring improvement capability. Information about the source of the instruments, the sectors in which they were developed or used, the measurement constructs or domains they employ, and how they were tested was extracted.
Results of data synthesis
The instruments and framework constructs are very heterogeneous, demonstrating the ambiguity of improvement capability as a concept, and the difficulties involved in its operationalisation. Two-thirds of the instruments and frameworks have been subject to tests of reliability and half to tests of validity. Many instruments have little apparent theoretical basis and do not seem to have been used widely.
The assessment and development of improvement capability needs clearer and more consistent conceptual and terminological definition, used consistently across disciplines and sectors. There is scope to learn from existing instruments and frameworks, and this study proposes a synthetic framework of eight dimensions of improvement capability. Future Improvement capability instruments need robust testing for reliability and validity. This study contributes to practice and research by presenting the first review of the literature on improvement capability across all sectors including healthcare.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2017


  • Quality improvement
  • Quality management
  • External quality assessment
  • Other quality evaluation (EFQM)
  • External quality assessment, Training/Education
  • Human resources, Quality culture


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