In order to inform future quality improvement programs, researchers need to know why certain interventions work and what to do the same—or differently—when replicating a program.
These researchers used an ex post theory to explain the success of the Michigan Intensive Care Unit (ICU) project in reducing rates of central venous catheter bloodstream infection (CVC-BSI) in more than 100 ICSUs. The program reduced infection rates to zero in three months and held that rate over 18 months by:
- Generating isomorphic pressures for ICUs to join the program and conform to its requirements.
- Creating a densely networked community with peer monitoring within and across hospitals that evolved into a virtual learning community.
- Reframing CVC-BSIs as a social problem, one that could be solved by human action and behavior, addressing it through a professional movement using leaders who were ICU “insiders.”
- Institutionalizing good practices for insertion of a CVC using a nurse-monitored checklist.
- Sharing blinded data on infection rates motivated units to match the performance of those reporting the lowest rates.
- Using some “hard edges” such as the checklist and sanctions for failure to report data.
Today, ICUs around the world seek to “Match Michigan.”