Assessing healthcare professionals’ experiences of integrated care: do surveys tell the full story?

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Abstract

Background:

Integrated care is the combination of different healthcare services with the goal to provide comprehensive, seamless, effective and efficient patient care. Assessing the experiences of healthcare professionals (HCPs) is an important aspect when evaluating integrated care strategies.

Aims:

The aim of this rapid review was to investigate if quantitative surveys used to assess HCPs’ experiences with integrated care capture all the aspects highlighted as being important in qualitative research, with a view to informing future survey development.

Methods:

The review considered all types of health professionals in primary care, and hospital and specialist services, with a specific focus on the provision of integrated care aimed at improving the patient journey. PubMed, CINAHL and grey literature sources were searched for relevant surveys/program evaluations and qualitative research studies. Full text articles deemed to be of relevance to the review were appraised for methodological quality using abridged critical appraisal instruments from the Joanna Briggs Institute. Data were extracted from included studies using standardized data extraction templates. Findings from included studies were grouped into domains based on similarity of meaning. Similarities and differences in the domains covered in quantitative surveys and those identified as being important in qualitative research were explored.

Results:

A total of 37 studies (19 quantitative surveys, 14 qualitative studies and four mixed-method studies) were included in the review. A range of healthcare professions participated in the included studies, the majority being primary care providers. Common domains identified from quantitative surveys and qualitative studies included Communication, Agreement on Clear Roles and Responsibilities, Facilities, Information Systems, and Coordination of Care and Access. Qualitative research highlighted domains identified by HCPs as being relevant to their experiences with integrated care that have not routinely being surveyed, including Workload, Clear Leadership/Decision-Making, Management, Flexibility of Integrated Care Model, Engagement, Usefulness of Integrated Care and Collaboration, and Positive Impact/Clinical Benefits/Practice Level Benefits.

Conclusion:

There were several domains identified from qualitative research that are not routinely included in quantitative surveys to assess health professionals’ experiences of integrated care. In addition, the qualitative findings suggest that the experiences of HCPs are often impacted by deeper aspects than those measured by existing surveys. Incorporation of targeted items within these domains in the design of surveys should enhance the capture of data that are relevant to the experiences of HCPs with integrated care, which may assist in more comprehensive evaluation and subsequent improvement of integrated care programs.

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