Identifying service needs from the users and service providers’ perspective: a focus group study of Chinese elders, health and social care professionals

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Aim.This is a preliminary study to identify older people service needs in Hong Kong from the users’ and service providers’ perspective.Background.As the Hong Kong population is ageing rapidly, it is important to identify the needs for care of older people. Although a wide variety of medical and social services have been provided to meet the needs of older people, there has been little evaluation from the users’ or service providers’ perspective regarding what the needs are and how well current service provisions match their needs. In recent years the importance of patient-centred care has been emphasised, where patient’s expectation of care has been given a central role in guiding and improving the provision of health. However few studies have been carried out with respect to services for older people.Design.To identify the service needs, a focus group study was conducted. Both service providers and older people were interviewed. This preliminary study used a qualitative research method to identify older people’s service needs, generating rich information which could be used to inform older people care service development.Method.Data were collected by conducting eight focus group discussions. The focus group interviews were audio-taped. Interviews were then transcribed and themes were identified.Results.The study identified several areas for improvement in services for older people, covering adequacy, accessibility and affordability of medical services, coordination of health and social care, quality of long-term care, negative perceptions and training needs. Some themes such as service adequacy and negative staff attitudes occurred in both older people and health professional focus groups. The themes of fast access, continuity of care and smooth transition, affordability, provision of information of available health and social services appear to be universal as these have also been identified in similar studies in other countries.Conclusion.In addition to other objective outcomes, such as duration of stay in hospital or re-admission rates after hospital discharges, changes in service provisions towards improvement should be evaluated from the users as well as professional care providers’ perspectives.Relevance to clinical practice.Areas of improvement in service delivery include timely access, continuity, affordability, better coordination of health and social care, quality of care particularly in the long-term residential care setting and healthcare professionals’ communication and caring skills and attitude.

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