Objective: The integration of quality indicators into the accreditation process has been recognized as a promising strategy worldwide. This study was to explore the implementation patterns of hospital accreditation through the lens of a systems-theory based model, and determine an international accreditation implementation typology. Design: A qualitative comparative study of five established international hospital accreditation systems was undertaken based on a systems-theoretic holistic healthcare systems relationship model. A set of key attributes relevant to three systems-theoretic model relationships guided data collection, comparison and synthesis. Setting: Hospital accreditation systems in five countries: America, Canada, Australia, Taiwan and France. Results: An accreditation implementation typology was developed based on the data synthesis of the similarities and differences among the relationships. A typology including five implementation types of hospital accreditation systems (TYPE I-V) was induced. TYPE I is a basic stand-alone accreditation system. The higher types represent stronger relationships among accreditation system, healthcare organizations and quality measurement systems. The five settings have shifted their accreditation approaches from the basic type (TYPE I). Conclusions: The implementation typology of hospital accreditation could serve as a roadmap for refining hospital accreditation systems toward an integrative approach for continuous quality improvement.
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