What is a Collaborative?

There is often confusion between the Collaborative method and collaboration in general. The Collaborative method has a specific approach, which is user-friendly and simple. A Collaborative is an improvement method that relies on the distribution and adaptation of existing knowledge to multiple settings, to achieve a common aim. Healthcare Collaboratives are built on a tried and tested method, developed in the USA , which has been applied to a wide range of management challenges.

'Breakthrough Series' Collaborative methodology, first developed in the USA by the Instititute of Healthcare Improvement, has been applied to a wide range of management challenges. It was originally applied to healthcare systems in the USA, and has been adopted in other countries, including the UK, Scotland, Canada and New Zealand.

A Collaborative is not a research project, a set of conferences or a passive exercise. A Collaborative is about actually doing and improving. A key component of the doing and improving within the Collaborative methodology is the Model for Improvement*.  This highly successful quality Improvement tool provides a framework for developing, testing and implementing changes. It helps to break down the change effort into small, manageable chunks which are then tested to ensure that things are improving and that no effort is wasted. 

The Improvement Foundation has adapted the Breakthrough Series Collaborative methodology and applied it as the framework for the Australian Primary Care Collaboratives (APCC) Program.

The Collaborative methodology promotes rapid change. It works because:

  • It is straightforward and structured.
  • There is dedicated support for participants.
  • It promotes ‘protected time' (time specifically set aside for quality improvement work), for participants to spend together solving problems as a team.
  • It is designed to implement change in small manageable cycles and identify where a change actually leads to an improvement.

With the APCC Program:

  • Colleagues get together at a series of learning workshops.
  • Participants exchange ideas, share experiences, and learn from experts about practical quality improvement skills.
  • Participants learn how to make and test changes using the Model for Improvement* which includes the 3 Fundamental Questions and Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles.
  • Through shared learning, teams from a number of general practices work together to rapidly test and implement changes that lead to lasting improvements.

To find out more about how this methodology is applied within the APCC Program visit The APCC Program page.

*Langley, Nolan, Nolan, Norman & Provost (1996) "The Improvement Guide" Jossey Bass, USA.

Last Updated 16 January 2014