A focused ethnography in the context of a European cancer research hospital accreditation program

Elisa Mazzini, Francesco Soncini, Loredana Cerullo, Lucia Genovese, Giovanni Apolone, Luca Ghirotto, Giorgio Mazzi, Massimo Costantini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A quality accreditation program (AP) is designed to guarantee predefined quality standards of healthcare organizations. Evidence of the impact of quality standards remains scarce and somewhat challenging to document. This study aimed to investigate the accreditation of a cancer research hospital (Italy), promoted by the Organization of European Cancer Institutes (OECI), by focusing on the individual, group, and organizational experiences resulting from the OECI AP. Methods: A focused ethnography study was carried out to analyze the relevance of participation in the accreditation process. Twenty-nine key informants were involved in four focus group meetings, and twelve semistructured interviews were conducted with professionals and managers. Inductive qualitative content analysis was applied to examine all transcripts. Results: Four main categories emerged: a) OECI AP as an opportunity to foster diversity within professional roles; b) OECI AP as a possibility for change; c) perceived barriers; and d) OECI AP-solicited expectations. Conclusions: The accreditation process is an opportunity for improving the quality and variety of care services for cancer patients through promoting an interdisciplinary approach to care provision. Perceiving accreditation as an opportunity is a prerequisite for overcoming the barriers that professionals involved in the process may report. Critical to a positive change is sharing the values and the framework, which are at the basis of accreditation programs. Improving the information-sharing process among managers and professionals may limit the risk of unmet expectations and prevent demotivation by future accreditation programs. Finally, we found that positive changes are more likely to happen when an accreditation process is considered an activity whose results depend on managers’ and professionals’ joint work.

Original languageEnglish
Article number446
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Accreditation programs
  • Cancer
  • Change management
  • Healthcare organization
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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