Background: The purpose of this article is to create actionable knowledge, making the definition of process improvement projects in health care delivery more effective. Methods: This study is a retrospective analysis of process improvement projects in hospitals, facilitating a case-based reasoning approach to project definition. Data sources were project documentation and hospital-performance statistics of 271 Lean Six Sigma health care projects from 2002 to 2009 of general, teaching, and academic hospitals in the Netherlands and Belgium. Results: Objectives and operational definitions of improvement projects in the sample, analyzed and structured in a uniform format and terminology. Extraction of reusable elements of earlier project definitions, presented in the form of 9 templates called generic project definitions. These templates function as exemplars for future process improvement projects, making the selection, definition, and operationalization of similar projects more efficient. Each template includes an explicated rationale, an operationalization in the form of metrics, and a prototypical example. Thus, a process of incremental and sustained learning based on case-based reasoning is facilitated. Conclusions: The quality of project definitions is a crucial success factor in pursuits to improve health care delivery. We offer 9 tried and tested improvement themes related to patient safety, patient satisfaction, and business-economic performance of hospitals. © 2011 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
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