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Research Study vs. Quality Improvement/Program Evaluation

There can be a significant overlap between Quality Improvement (QI) and research. Generally, QI is conducted to improve or measure the effectiveness of a program or service; research is a more structured investigation designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge.

Policy or legislative requirements stipulate that research projects involving people or their health information must be reviewed by a REB. This raises a number of questions. For example:

  • What should be done with projects that are not considered research but involve people or their health information?
  • Should quality improvement or program evaluation projects also be assessed for their risk to people?
  • What are the characteristics of research versus quality improvement/ program evaluation projects? How do you decide what to review?
  • How should ethics oversight of these “non-research” projects be approached?

There is significant debate over these questions. The ARECCI (A pRoject Ethics Community Consensus Initiative) tool, developed by Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AIHS) can be used to assist in determining if your project is a research study or a quality improvement/program evaluation project.

ARECCI tool (if required)

Even if your ARECCI tool results indicate your project is a quality improvement or project evaluation, you may wish to have it assessed by the Research Ethics team who can then provide documentation that the project does not need ethics review. For PHC Researchers, contact Julie Hadden (Manager, Ethical Reviews) if you need this documentation.

According to the Tri-Council Policy Statement (Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans) TCPS 2 (article 2.1) any research which involves human participants or live biological material that is executed through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation, requires a Research Ethics Board (REB) review.

Quality Improvement at PHC/VCH

In 2017, a physician-led quality improvement (QI) initiative opened to VCH and PHC physicians who are interested in learning about and doing QI work. They will receive support for their work on a project as well as education and access to our physician-led QI team. See the QI document here.