Background: Ensuring effective identification and management of sepsis is a healthcare priority in many countries. Recommendations for sepsis management in primary care have been produced, but in complex healthcare systems, an in-depth understanding of current system interactions and functioning is often essential before improvement interventions can be successfully designed and implemented. A structured participatory design approach to model a primary care system was employed to hypothesise gaps between work as intended and work delivered to inform improvement and implementation priorities for sepsis management. Methods: In a Scottish regional health authority, multiple stakeholders were interviewed and the records of patients admitted from primary care to hospital with possible sepsis analysed. This identified the key work functions required to manage these patients successfully, the influence of system conditions (such as resource availability) and the resulting variability of function output. This information was used to model the system using the Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM). The multiple stakeholder interviews also explored perspectives on system improvement needs which were subsequently themed. The FRAM model directed an expert group to reconcile improvement suggestions with current work systems and design an intervention to improve clinical management of sepsis. Results: Fourteen key system functions were identified, and a FRAM model was created. Variability was found in the output of all functions. The overall system purpose and improvement priorities were agreed. Improvement interventions were reconciled with the FRAM model of current work to understand how best to implement change, and a multi-component improvement intervention was designed. Conclusions: Traditional improvement approaches often focus on individual performance or a specific care process, rather than seeking to understand and improve overall performance in a complex system. The construction of the FRAM model facilitated an understanding of the complexity of interactions within the current system, how system conditions influence everyday sepsis management and how proposed interventions would work within the context of the current system. This directed the design of a multi-component improvement intervention that organisations could locally adapt and implement with the aim of improving overall system functioning and performance to improve sepsis management.
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- Functional resonance analysis method
- Primary care
- Quality improvement