Review article published in International Journal of Care Coordination, Vol. 20, No. 1-2.
AUTHORS: Vrijhoef HJ, de Belvis AG, de la Calle M, de Sabata MS, Hauck B, Montante S, Mortiz A, Pelizzola D, Saraheimo M, Guldemond NA
Integrated Care Pathways (ICPs) are a method for the mutual decision-making and organization of care for a well-defined group of patients during a well-defined period. The aim of a care pathway is to enhance the quality of care by improving patient outcomes, promoting patient safety, increasing patient satisfaction, and optimizing the use of resources. To describe this concept, different names are used, e.g. care pathways and integrated care pathways. Modern information technologies (IT) can support ICPs by enabling patient empowerment, better management, and the monitoring of care provided by multidisciplinary teams. This study analyses ICPs across Europe, identifying commonalities and success factors to establish good practices for IT-supported ICPs in diabetes care.
A mixed-method approach was applied, combining desk research on 24 projects from the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA) with follow-up interviews of project participants, and a non-systematic literature review. We applied a Delphi technique to select process and outcome indicators, derived from different literature sources which were compiled and applied for the identification of successful good practices.
Desk research identified sixteen projects featuring IT-supported ICPs, mostly derived from the EIP on AHA, as good practices based on our criteria. Follow-up interviews were then conducted with representatives from 9 of the 16 projects to gather information not publicly available and understand how these projects were meeting the identified criteria. In parallel, the non-systematic literature review of 434 PubMed search results revealed a total of eight relevant projects. On the basis of the selected EIP on AHA project data and non-systematic literature review, no commonalities with regard to defined process or outcome indicators could be identified through our approach. Conversely, the research produced a heterogeneous picture in all aspects of the projects’ indicators. Data from desk research and follow-up interviews partly lacked information on outcome and performance, which limited the comparison between practices.
Applying a comprehensive set of indicators in a multi-method approach to assess the projects included in this research study did not reveal any obvious commonalities which might serve as a blueprint for future IT-supported ICP projects. Instead, an unexpected high degree of heterogeneity was observed, that may reflect diverse local implementation requirements e.g. specificities of the local healthcare system, local regulations, or preexisting structures used for the project setup. Improving the definition of and reporting on project outcomes could help advance research on and implementation of effective integrated care solutions for chronic disease management across Europe.