Using Care Bundles to Improve Health Care Quality

How to cite this paper:
Resar R, Griffin FA, Haraden C, Nolan TW. Using Care Bundles to Improve Health Care Quality. IHI Innovation Series white paper. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2012. (Available on


In 2001, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) developed the “bundle” concept in the context of an IHI and Voluntary Hospital Association (VHA) joint initiative — Idealized Design of the Intensive Care Unit (IDICU) — involving 13 hospitals focused on improving critical care. The goal of the initiative was to improve critical care processes to the highest levels of reliability, which would result in vastly improved outcomes. The theory was that enhancing teamwork and communication in multidisciplinary teams would create the necessary conditions for safe and reliable care in the ICU. We focused on areas with potential for great harm and high cost, and where the evidence base was strong.

While there were many changes the teams in the initiative worked toward implementing, care of patients on ventilators and those who had central lines became a strong focus, as it satisfied all of our criteria: the evidence for the clinical changes was robust, and there was little or no controversy concerning their efficacy. Further, teams would need to find new and better ways to work together to produce reliable change and superior patient outcomes. We found that by using a “bundle” — a small set of evidence-based interventions for a defined patient population and care setting — the improvements in patient outcomes exceeded expectations of both teams and faculty.

Thus began an innovative approach to improving care: the use of bundles. This white paper describes the history, theory of change, design concepts, and outcomes associated with the development and use of bundles over the past decade. We reflect on what we have learned and make suggestions for further research and implementation of the bundle approach to improving care.

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