In May 2009, the New Zealand government announced a new policy aimed at improving the quality of Emergency Department care and whole hospital performance. Governments have increasingly looked to time targets as a mechanism for improving hospital performance and from a whole system perspective, using the Emergency Department waiting time as a performance measure has the potential to see improvements in the wider health system. However, the imposition of targets may have significant adverse consequences. There is little empirical work examining how the performance of the wider hospital system is affected by such a target. This project aims to answer the following questions: How has the introduction of the target affected broader hospital performance over time, and what accounts for these changes? Which initiatives and strategies have been successful in moving hospitals towards the target without compromising the quality of other care processes and patient outcomes? Is there a difference in outcomes between different ethnic and age groups? Which initiatives and strategies have the greatest potential to be transferred across organisational contexts?
The study design is mixed methods; combining qualitative research into the behaviour and practices of specific case study hospitals with quantitative data on clinical outcomes and process measures of performance over the period 2006-2012. All research activity is guided by a Kaupapa Māori Research methodological approach. A dynamic systems model of acute patient flows was created to frame the study. Consequences of the target (positive and negative) will be explored by integrating analyses and insights gained from the quantitative and qualitative streams of the study.
At the time of submission of this protocol, the project has been underway for 12 months. This time was necessary to finalise both the case study sites and the secondary outcomes through key stakeholder consultation. We believe that this is an appropriate juncture to publish the protocol, now that the sites and final outcomes to be measured have been determined.