The development of the concept of return-on-investment from large-scale quality improvement programmes in healthcare: an integrative systematic literature review

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Abstract

Background
Return on Investment (ROI) is increasingly being used to evaluate financial benefits from healthcare Quality Improvement (QI). ROI is traditionally used to evaluate investment performance in the commercial field. Little is known about ROI in healthcare. The aim of this systematic review was to analyse and develop ROI as a concept and develop a ROI conceptual framework for large-scale healthcare QI programmes.

Methods
We searched Medline, Embase, Global health, PsycInfo, EconLit, NHS EED, Web of Science, Google Scholar using ROI or returns-on-investment concepts (e.g., cost–benefit, cost-effectiveness, value). We combined this terms with healthcare and QI. Included articles discussed at least three organisational QI benefits, including financial or patient benefits. We synthesised the different ways in which ROI or return-on-investment concepts were used and discussed by the QI literature; first the economically focused, then the non-economically focused QI literature. We then integrated these literatures to summarise their combined views.

Results
We retrieved 10 428 articles. One hundred and two (102) articles were selected for full text screening. Of these 34 were excluded and 68 included. The included articles were QI economic, effectiveness, process, and impact evaluations as well as reports and conceptual literature. Fifteen of 68 articles were directly focused on QI programme economic outcomes. Of these, only four focused on ROI. ROI related concepts in this group included cost-effectiveness, cost–benefit, ROI, cost-saving, cost-reduction, and cost-avoidance. The remaining articles mainly mentioned efficiency, productivity, value, or benefits. Financial outcomes were not the main goal of QI programmes. We found that the ROI concept in healthcare QI aligned with the concepts of value and benefit, both monetary and non-monetary.

Conclusion
Our analysis of the reviewed literature indicates that ROI in QI is conceptualised as value or benefit as demonstrated through a combination of significant outcomes for one or more stakeholders in healthcare organisations. As such, organisations at different developmental stages can deduce benefits that are relevant and legitimate as per their contextual needs.

Trial registration
Review registration: PROSPERO; CRD42021236948.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1492
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume22
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Dec 2022

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