Measuring the benefits of the integration of health and social care: qualitative interviews with professional stakeholders and patient representatives.
Crocker H., Kelly L., Harlock J., Fitzpatrick R., Peters M.
BACKGROUND: Integrated care has the potential to ease the increasing pressures faced by health and social care systems, however, challenges around measuring the benefits for providers, patients, and service users remain. This paper explores stakeholders' views on the benefits of integrated care and approaches to measuring the integration of health and social care. METHODS: Twenty-five semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with professional stakeholders (n = 19) and patient representatives (n = 6). Interviews focused on the benefits of integrated care and how it should be evaluated. Data was analysed using framework analysis. RESULTS: Three overarching themes emerged from the data: (1) integrated care and its benefits, with stakeholders defining it primarily from the patient's perspective; (2) potential measures for assessing the benefits of integration in terms of system effects, patient experiences, and patient outcomes; and (3) broader considerations around the assessment of integrated care, including the use of qualitative methods. CONCLUSIONS: There was consensus among stakeholders that patient experiences and outcomes are the best measures of integration, and that the main measures currently used to assess integration do not directly assess patient benefits. Validated health status measures are readily available, however, a substantial shift in practices is required before their use becomes commonplace.