Background: In increasingly constrained healthcare budgets worldwide, efforts to improve quality and reduce costs are vital. Quality Improvement Collaboratives (QICs) are often used in healthcare settings to implement proven clinical interventions within local and national programs. The cost of this method of implementation, however, is cited as a barrier to use. This systematic review aims to identify and describe studies reporting on costs and cost-effectiveness of QICs when used to implement clinical guidelines in healthcare. Methods: Multiple databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, EconLit and ProQuest) were searched for economic evaluations or cost studies of QICs in healthcare. Studies were included if they reported on economic evaluations or costs of QICs. Two authors independently reviewed citations and full text papers. Key characteristics of eligible studies were extracted, and their quality assessed against the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS). Evers CHEC-List was used for full economic evaluations. Cost-effectiveness findings were interpreted through the Johanna Briggs Institute 'three by three dominance matrix tool' to guide conclusions. Currencies were converted to United States dollars for 2018 using OECD and World Bank databases. Results: Few studies reported on costs or economic evaluations of QICs despite their use in healthcare. Eight studies across multiple healthcare settings in acute and long-term care, community addiction treatment and chronic disease management were included. Five were considered good quality and favoured the establishment of QICs as cost-effective implementation methods. The cost savings to the healthcare setting identified in these studies outweighed the cost of the collaborative itself. Conclusions: Potential cost savings to the health care system in both acute and chronic conditions may be possible by applying QICs at scale. However, variations in effectiveness, costs and elements of the method within studies, indicated that caution is needed. Consistent identification of costs and description of the elements applied in QICs would better inform decisions for their use and may reduce perceived barriers. Lack of studies with negative findings may have been due to publication bias. Future research should include economic evaluations with societal perspectives of costs and savings and the cost-effectiveness of elements of QICs. Trial registration: PROSPERO registration number: CRD42018107417.
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- Economic evaluation
- Quality improvement