The extent that organizational learning and resilience for the change process, that is, adaptive reserve (AR), is a component of building practice capacity for continuous quality improvement (QI) is unknown.
The aim of the study was to examine the association of AR and development of QI capacity.
One hundred forty-two primary care practices were evaluated at baseline and 12 months in a randomized trial to improve care quality. Practice AR was measured by staff survey along with a validated QI capacity assessment (QICA). We assessed the association of baseline QICA with baseline AR and both baseline and change in AR with change in QICA from 0 to 12 months. Effect modification by presence of QI infrastructure in parent organizations and trial arm was examined.
Mean QICA increased from 6.5 to 8.1 (p < .001), and mean AR increased from 71.8 to 73.9 points (p < .001). At baseline, there was a significant association between AR and QICA scores: The QICA averaged 0.34 points higher (95% CI [0.04, 0.64], p = .03) per 10-point difference in AR. There was a significant association between baseline AR and 12-month QICA—which averaged 0.30 points higher (95% CI [0.02, 0.57], p = .04) per 10 points in baseline AR. There was no association between changes in AR and the QICA from 0 to 12 months and no effect modification by trial arm or external QI infrastructure.
Baseline AR was positively associated with both baseline and follow-up QI capacity, but there was no association between change in AR and change in the QICA, suggesting AR may be a precondition to growth in QI capacity.
Findings suggest that developing AR may be a valuable step prior to undertaking QI-oriented growth, with implications for sequencing of development strategies, including added gain in QI capacity development from building AR prior to engaging in transformation efforts.