Healthcare systems are challenged by a demand that exceeds available resources. One policy to meet this challenge is task substitution-transferring tasks to other professions and settings. Our study aimed to explore stakeholders’ perceived feasibility of transferring hospital-based monitoring of stable glaucoma patients to primary care optometrists.
A case study was undertaken in the Rotterdam Eye Hospital (REH) using semi-structured interviews and document reviews. They were inductively analysed using three implementation related theoretical perspectives: sociological theories on professionalism, management theories, and applied political analysis.
Currently it is not feasible to use primary care optometrists as substitutes for optometrists and ophthalmic technicians working in a hospital-based glaucoma follow-up unit (GFU). Respondents’ narratives revealed that: the glaucoma specialists’ sense of urgency for task substitution outside the hospital diminished after establishing a GFU that satisfied their professionalization needs; the return on investments were unclear; and reluctant key stakeholders with strong power positions blocked implementation. The window of opportunity that existed for task substitution in person and setting in 1999 closed with the institutionalization of the GFU.
Transferring the monitoring of stable glaucoma patients to primary care optometrists in Rotterdam did not seem feasible. The main reasons were the lack of agreement on professional boundaries and work domains, the institutionalization of the GFU in the REH, and the absence of an appropriate reimbursement system. Policy makers considering substituting tasks to other professionals should carefully think about the implementation process, especially in a two-step implementation process (substitution in person and in setting) such as this case. Involving the substituting professionals early on to ensure all stakeholders see the change as a normal step in the professionalization of the substituting professionals is essential, as is implementing the task substitution within the window of opportunity.
Diffusion of innovation; Access to health care; Quality of health care
The development and use of performance indicators (PI) in the field of public mental health care (PMHC) has increased rapidly in the last decade. To gain insight in the current state of PI for PMHC in nations and regions around the world, we conducted a structured review of publications in scientific peer-reviewed journals supplemented by a systematic inventory of PI published in policy documents by (non-) governmental organizations.
Publications on PI for PMHC were identified through database- and internet searches. Final selection was based on review of the full content of the publications. Publications were ordered by nation or region and chronologically. Individual PI were classified by development method, assessment level, care domain, performance dimension, diagnostic focus, and data source. Finally, the evidence on feasibility, data reliability, and content-, criterion-, and construct validity of the PI was evaluated.
A total of 106 publications were included in the sample. The majority of the publications (n = 65) were peer-reviewed journal articles and 66 publications specifically dealt with performance of PMHC in the United States. The objectives of performance measurement vary widely from internal quality improvement to increasing transparency and accountability. The characteristics of 1480 unique PI were assessed. The majority of PI is based on stakeholder opinion, assesses care processes, is not specific to any diagnostic group, and utilizes administrative data sources. The targeted quality dimensions varied widely across and within nations depending on local professional or political definitions and interests. For all PI some evidence for the content validity and feasibility has been established. Data reliability, criterion- and construct validity have rarely been assessed. Only 18 publications on criterion validity were included. These show significant associations in the expected direction on the majority of PI, but mixed results on a noteworthy number of others.
PI have been developed for a broad range of care levels, domains, and quality dimensions of PMHC. To ensure their usefulness for the measurement of PMHC performance and advancement of transparency, accountability and quality improvement in PMHC, future research should focus on assessment of the psychometric properties of PI.
Can Europeans be confident about the quality of care received in another EU country? Helena Legido-Quigley and colleagues discuss the various mechanisms at work across Europe to ensure quality and safety
This study examined the experience of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in enhancing its stewardship and performance management role by developing a health system strategy map and a strategy-based scorecard through a process of policy reviews and expert consultations, and linking them to accountability agreements. An evaluation of the implementation and of the effects of the policy intervention has been carried out through direct policy observation over three years, document analysis, interviews with decision-makers and systematic discussion of findings with other authors and external reviewers. Cascading strategies at health and local health system levels were identified, and a core set of health system and local health system performance indicators was selected and incorporated into accountability agreements with the Local Health Integration Networks. despite the persistence of such challenges as measurement limitations and lack of systematic linkage to decision-making processes, these activities helped to strengthen substantially the ministry's performance management function.
Population aging increases the number of glaucoma patients which leads to higher workloads of glaucoma specialists. If stable glaucoma patients were monitored by optometrists and ophthalmic technicians in a glaucoma follow-up unit (GFU) rather than by glaucoma specialists, the specialists' workload and waiting lists might be reduced.
We compared costs and quality of care at the GFU with those of usual care by glaucoma specialists in the Rotterdam Eye Hospital (REH) in a 30-month randomized clinical trial. Because quality of care turned out to be similar, we focus here on the costs.
Stable glaucoma patients were randomized between the GFU and the glaucoma specialist group. Costs per patient year were calculated from four perspectives: those of patients, the Rotterdam Eye Hospital (REH), Dutch healthcare system, and society. The outcome measures were: compliance to the protocol; patient satisfaction; stability according to the practitioner; mean difference in IOP; results of the examinations; and number of treatment changes.
Baseline characteristics (such as age, intraocular pressure and target pressure) were comparable between the GFU group (n = 410) and the glaucoma specialist group (n = 405).
Despite a higher number of visits per year, mean hospital costs per patient year were lower in the GFU group (€139 vs. €161). Patients' time and travel costs were similar. Healthcare costs were significantly lower for the GFU group (€230 vs. €251), as were societal costs (€310 vs. €339) (p < 0.01). Bootstrap-, sensitivity- and scenario-analyses showed that the costs were robust when varying hospital policy and the duration of visits and tests.
We conclude that this GFU is cost-effective and deserves to be considered for implementation in other hospitals.
Hospitals in European countries apply a wide range of quality improvement strategies. Knowledge of the effectiveness of these strategies, implemented as part of an overall hospital quality improvement system, is limited.
We propose to study the relationships among organisational quality improvement systems, patient empowerment, organisational culture, professionals' involvement with the quality of hospital care, including clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient involvement. We will employ a cross-sectional, multi-level study design in which patient-level measurements are nested in hospital departments, which are in turn nested in hospitals in different EU countries. Mixed methods will be used for data collection, measurement and analysis. Hospital/care pathway level constructs that will be assessed include external pressure, hospital governance, quality improvement system, patient empowerment in quality improvement, organisational culture and professional involvement. These constructs will be assessed using questionnaires. Patient-level constructs include clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient involvement, and will be assessed using audit of patient records, routine data and patient surveys. For the assessment of hospital and pathway level constructs we will collect data from randomly selected hospitals in eight countries. For a sample of hospitals in each country we will carry out additional data collection at patient-level related to four conditions (stroke, acute myocardial infarction, hip fracture and delivery). In addition, structural components of quality improvement systems will be assessed using visits by experienced external assessors. Data analysis will include descriptive statistics and graphical representations and methods for data reduction, classification techniques and psychometric analysis, before moving to bi-variate and multivariate analysis. The latter will be conducted at hospital and multilevel. In addition, we will apply sophisticated methodological elements such as the use of causal diagrams, outcome modelling, double robust estimation and detailed sensitivity analysis or multiple bias analyses to assess the impact of the various sources of bias.
Products of the project will include a catalogue of instruments and tools that can be used to build departmental or hospital quality and safety programme and an appraisal scheme to assess the maturity of the quality improvement system for use by hospitals and by purchasers to contract hospitals.
The CQ Index for the elderly, a quality-of-care questionnaire administered by conducting interviews, is used to assess clients' experiences in Dutch nursing homes and homes for the elderly. This article describes whether inter-interviewer differences influence the perceived quality of healthcare services reported by residents, the size of this interviewer effect and the influence of the interviewer characteristics on CQ Index dimensions for public reporting.
Data from 4345 questionnaires was used. Correlations were calculated, reliability analyses were performed, and a multilevel analysis was used to calculate the degree of correlation between two interviewers within one health care institution. Five models were constructed and the Intra Class Correlation (ICC) was calculated. Healthcare institutions were given 1-5 stars on every quality dimensions (1 = worst and 5 = best), adjusted for resident and interviewer characteristics. The effect of these characteristics on the assignment of the stars was investigated.
In a multilevel approach, the ICC showed a significant amount of variance on five quality dimensions. Of the interviewer characteristics, only previous interviewing experience, the reason of interviewing and general knowledge of health care had a significant effect on the quality dimensions. Adjusting for interviewer characteristics did not affect the overall star assignment to the institutions regarding 7 of 12 quality dimensions. For the other five dimensions (Shared decision-making, Meals, Professional competency, Autonomy, and Availability of personnel) a minor effect was found.
We have shown that training, the use of experienced interviewers, written instructions, supervision and educational meetings do not automatically prevent interviewer effects. While the results of this study can be used to improve the quality of services provided by these institutions, several CQ index dimensions should be interpreted with caution for external purposes (accountability and transparency).
Adequate support for homeless populations includes shelter and care to recuperate from illness and/or injury. This is a descriptive analysis of diagnoses and use of shelter-based convalescence in a cohort of homeless adults in Amsterdam.
Demographics of ill homeless adults, diagnoses, referral pattern, length of stay, discharge locations, and mortality, were collected by treating physicians during outreach care provision in a shelter-based convalescence care facility in Amsterdam, from January 2001 through October 2007.
629 individuals accounted for 889 admissions to the convalescence care facility. 83% were male and 53% were born in the Netherlands. The mean age was 45 years (SD 10 years). The primary physical problems were skin disorders (37%), respiratory disorders (33%), digestive disorders (24%) and musculoskeletal disorders (21%). Common chronic conditions included addictions 78%, mental health disorders 20%, HIV/AIDS 11% and liver cirrhosis 5%. Referral sources were self-referred (18%), general hospitals (21%) and drug clinics (27%). The median length of stay was 20 days. After (self)discharge, 63% went back to the previous circumstances, 10% obtained housing, and 23% went to a medical or nursing setting. By March 2008, one in seven users (n = 83; 13%) were known to have died, the Standard Mortality Ratio was 7.5 (95% CI: 4.1-13.5). Over the years, fewer men were admitted, with significantly more self neglect, personality disorders and cocaine use. Lengths of stay increased significantly during the study period.
Over the last years, the shelter-based convalescence care facility users were mainly homeless single males, around 45 years of age, with chronic problems due to substance use, mental health disorders and a frail physical condition, many of whom died a premature death. The facility has been flexible and responsive to the needs of the users and services available.
The professional organization of medical work no longer reflects the changing health needs caused by the growing number of complex and chronically ill patients. Key stakeholders enforce coordination and remove power from the medical professions in order allow for these changes. However, it may also be necessary to initiate basic changes to way in which the medical professionals work in order to adapt to the changing health needs.
Medical leaders, supported by health policy makers, can consciously activate the self-regulatory capacity of medical professionalism in order to transform the medical profession and the related professional processes of care so that it can adapt to the changing health needs. In doing so, they would open up additional routes to the improvement of the health services system and to health improvement. This involves three consecutive steps: (1) defining and categorizing the health needs of the population; (2) reorganizing the specialty domains around the needs of population groups; (3) reorganizing the specialty domains by eliminating work that could be done by less educated personnel or by the patients themselves. We suggest seven strategies that are required in order to achieve this transformation.
Changing medical professionalism to fit the changing health needs will not be easy. It will need strong leadership. But, if the medical world does not embark on this endeavour, good doctoring will become merely a bureaucratic and/or marketing exercise that obscures the ultimate goal of medicine which is to optimize the health of both individuals and the entire population.
To improve homelessness prevention practice, we met with recently homeless adults, to explore their pathways into homelessness, problems and service use, before and after becoming homeless.
Recently homeless adults (last housing lost up to two years ago and legally staying in the Netherlands) were sampled in the streets, day centres and overnight shelters in Amsterdam. In April and May 2004, students conducted interviews and collected data on demographics, self reported pathways into homelessness, social and medical problems, and service use, before and after becoming homeless.
among 120 recently homeless adults, (male 88%, Dutch 50%, average age 38 years, mean duration of homelessness 23 weeks), the main reported pathways into homelessness were evictions 38%, relationship problems 35%, prison 6% and other reasons 22%. Compared to the relationship group, the eviction group was slightly older (average age 39.6 versus 35.5 years; p = 0.08), belonged more often to a migrant group (p = 0.025), and reported more living single (p < 0,001), more financial debts (p = 0.009), more alcohol problems (p = 0.048) and more contacts with debt control services (p = 0.009). The relationship group reported more domestic conflicts (p < 0.001) and tended to report more drug (cocaine) problems. Before homelessness, in the total group, contacts with any social service were 38% and with any medical service 27%. Despite these contacts they did not keep their house. During homelessness only contacts with social work and benefit agencies increased, contacts with medical services remained low.
the recently homeless fit the overall profile of the homeless population in Amsterdam: single (Dutch) men, around 40 years, with a mix of financial debts, addiction, mental and/or physical health problems. Contacts with services were fragmented and did not prevent homelessness. For homelessness prevention, systematic and outreach social medical care before and during homelessness should be provided.
The Ontario health care system is devolving planning and funding authority to community based organizations and moving from steering through rules and regulations to steering on performance. As part of this transformation, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) are interested in using incentives as a strategy to ensure alignment – that is, health service providers' goals are in accord with the goals of the health system. The objective of the study was to develop a decision framework to assist policymakers in choosing and designing effective incentive systems.
The first part of the study was an extensive review of the literature to identify incentives models that are used in the various health care systems and their effectiveness. The second part was the development of policy principles to ensure that the used incentive models are congruent with the values of the Ontario health care system. The principles were developed by reviewing the Ontario policy documents and through discussions with policymakers. The validation of the principles and the suggested incentive models for use in Ontario took place at two meetings. The first meeting was with experts from the research and policy community, the second with senior policymakers from the MOHLTC. Based on the outcome of those two meetings, the researchers built a decision framework for incentives. The framework was send to the participants of both meetings and four additional experts for validation.
We identified several models that have proven, with a varying degree of evidence, to be effective in changing or enabling a health provider's performance. Overall, the literature suggests that there is no single best approach to create incentives yet and the ability of financial and non-financial incentives to achieve results depends on a number of contextual elements. After assessing the initial set of incentive models on their congruence with the four policy principles we defined nine incentive models to be appropriate for use in Ontario and potentially other health care systems that want to introduce incentives to improve performance. Subsequently, the models were incorporated in the resulting decision framework.
The design of an incentive must reflect the values and goals of the health care system, be well matched to the performance objectives and reflect a range of contextual factors that can influence the effectiveness of even well-designed incentives. As a consequence, a single policy recommendation around incentives is inappropriate. The decision framework provides health care policymakers and purchasers with a tool to support the selection of an incentive model that is the most appropriate to improve the targeted performance.
To assess the reliability and validity of a translated version of the American Hospital-level Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Survey® (H-CAHPS) instrument for use in Dutch health care.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Primary survey data from adults aged 18 years or more who were recently discharged from two multispecialty city hospitals in the Netherlands.
We used forward and backward translation procedures and a panel of experts to adapt the 66-item pilot H-CAHPS into a 70-item Dutch instrument. Descriptive statistics and standard psychometric methods were then used to test the reliability and validity of the new instrument.
From late November 2003 to early January 2004, the survey was administered by mail to 1,996 patients discharged within the previous 2 months.
Analyses supported the reliability and validity of the following 7-factor H-CAHPS structure for use in Dutch hospitals: on doctor's communication, nurses' communication, discharge information, communication about medication, pain control, physical environment of hospital, and nursing services. The internal consistency reliability of the scales ranged from 0.60 to 0.88. Items related to “family receiving help when on visit,” “hospital staff introducing self,” and “admission delays” did not improve the psychometric properties of the new instrument.
These findings suggest that the H-CAHPS instrument is reliable and valid for use in the Dutch context. However, more research will be needed to support its equivalence to the United States version, and its use for between-hospital comparisons.
CAHPS®; hospitals; Dutch health care; patient experiences of care; cross-cultural translation
Little is known on the scope and nature of ethnic inequalities in suboptimal asthma care for children. This study aimed to assess (1) ethnic differences in suboptimal asthma care for children with an asthma exacerbation who consulted a physician, and (2) ethnic differences in the nature of suboptimal care.
All children aged 6–16 years who during a period of six months consulted the paediatric department of the Academic Medical Centre-University of Amsterdam or one of the six regional primary care centres with an asthma exacerbation were included. Clinical guidelines were systematically converted to review criteria following the strategy as proposed by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. Based upon these review criteria and their experience experts of two multidisciplinary panels retrospectively assessed the quality of care and its (possible) failure to prevent the occurrence of asthma exacerbation.
Only a small number of children (n = 35) were included in the analysis as a result of which the ethnic differences in suboptimal care were not significant. However, the results do indicate immigrant children, in particular 'other non-Western' children (n = 11), more frequently to receive suboptimal care related to the asthma exacerbation when compared to ethnic Dutch children. Furthermore, we found the nature of suboptimal care to differ with under-prescribing in the 'other non-Western' group (n = 11), lack of information exchange between physicians in the Surinamese/Antillean group (n = 12) and lack of education, and counselling of patients and parents in the ethnic Dutch (n = 12) as the most relevant factor.
Ethnic inequalities in the scope and nature of suboptimal asthma care for children in the Netherlands seem to exist. For the non-western immigrant groups the results indicate the importance of the prescription behaviour of the medical doctor, as well as the supervision by one health care provider.
Capacity management systems create insight into required resources like staff and equipment. For inpatient hospital care, capacity management requires information on beds and nursing staff capacity, on a daily as well as annual basis. This paper presents a comprehensive capacity model that gives insight into required nursing staff capacity and opportunities to improve capacity utilization on a ward level.
A capacity model was developed to calculate required nursing staff capacity. The model used historical bed utilization, nurse-patient ratios, and parameters concerning contract hours to calculate beds and nursing staff needed per shift and the number of nurses needed on an annual basis in a ward. The model was applied to three different capacity management problems on three separate groups of hospital wards. The problems entailed operational, tactical, and strategic management issues: optimizing working processes on pediatric wards, predicting the consequences of reducing length of stay on nursing staff required on a cardiology ward, and calculating the nursing staff consequences of merging two internal medicine wards.
It was possible to build a model based on easily available data that calculate the nursing staff capacity needed daily and annually and that accommodate organizational improvements. Organizational improvement processes were initiated in three different groups of wards. For two pediatric wards, the most important improvements were found to be improving working processes so that the agreed nurse-patient ratios could be attained. In the second case, for a cardiology ward, what-if analyses with the model showed that workload could be substantially lowered by reducing length of stay. The third case demonstrated the possible savings in capacity that could be achieved by merging two small internal medicine wards.
A comprehensive capacity model was developed and successfully applied to support capacity decisions on operational, tactical, and strategic levels. It appeared to be a useful tool for supporting discussions between wards and hospital management by giving objective and quantitative insight into staff and bed requirements. Moreover, the model was applied to initiate organizational improvements, which resulted in more efficient capacity utilization.
Several measures have been implemented at international level to ensure that there is a greater focus on sex differences in health research. This study evaluates the effect of various formal incentives that were introduced by a Dutch financer of health research to encourage applicants to include sex differences in research proposals.
We sampled 213 health research proposals submitted in 2003 to the programmes Prevention (N = 104) and Innovation (N = 109) by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw). These proposals were analysed and categorized with regard to the expressed intention to take sex differences into consideration. Furthermore, those proposals in which such intention was absent were appraised by researchers to determine whether an intention of this kind would have been relevant.
We found that 23 % of proposals submitted to Prevention (incentive: programme specific instructions) and 10% of those submitted to Innovation (general set of guidelines) took account of sex differences (difference 13%; 95% CI: 3.1–22.9). Conversely, 66% of the research proposals in Prevention, and 20% in Innovation, failed to take sex differences into consideration, even though this might well have been relevant.
There is still insufficient incentive for those submitting research proposals to ZonMw to systematically incorporate sex differences when drafting such documents. The provisions in ZonMw's policy need to be amended and better monitored. For this, we formulated some recommendations.
Non-Western migrant populations living in Western countries are more likely to be physically inactive during leisure time than host populations. It is argued that this difference will disappear as they acculturate to the culture of the host country. We explored whether this is also true for migrants who experience contextual barriers such as having children, living in a less attractive neighbourhood, or having occupational physical activity.
Cross-sectional data were obtained from the LASER-study (2003–2004) on health related behaviours in first and second generation Turkish young people living in the Netherlands. For this study we included 485 Turkish participants aged 15–30 years, who participated in a structured interview during a home visit. Acculturation was indicated by level of 'cultural orientation towards the Dutch culture' and 'social contacts with ethnic Dutch' with persons being low oriented towards the Dutch culture and having few social contacts with ethnic Dutch as reference group. The measured barriers were 'having children', 'occupational physical activity' and 'living in a less attractive neighbourhood'. Logistic regression analyses were used to assess the associations between acculturation and physical activity during leisure time, stratified by these contextual barriers.
Greater cultural and social integration was associated with increased physical activity during leisure time. Odds ratio's were 1.85 (CI: 1.19–2.85) for 'cultural orientation' and 1.77 (CI: 1.15–2.71) for 'social contacts with ethnic Dutch'. However, these associations were not present or less strong among people who had children, or who were living in a less attractive neighbourhood or who engaged in occupational physical activity.
Physical activity during leisure time increased with greater acculturation, however, this relationship was found only among participants without children, living in a attractive neighbourhood and having no occupational activity. Interventions aimed at migrant populations should not only focus on the least integrated. Instead, effectiveness might be enhanced when interventions are sensitive to the contextual barriers that might inhibit physical activity behaviours during leisure time.
Given the proliferation and the growing complexity of performance measurement initiatives in many health systems, the Netherlands and Ontario, Canada expressed interests in cross-national comparisons in an effort to promote knowledge transfer and best practise. To support this cross-national learning, a study was undertaken to compare health system performance approaches in The Netherlands with Ontario, Canada.
We explored the performance assessment framework and system of each constituency, the embeddedness of performance data in management and policy processes, and the interrelationships between the frameworks. Methods used included analysing governmental strategic planning and policy documents, literature and internet searches, comparative descriptive tables, and schematics. Data collection and analysis took place in Ontario and The Netherlands. A workshop to validate and discuss the findings was conducted in Toronto, adding important insights to the study.
Both Ontario and The Netherlands conceive health system performance within supportive frameworks. However they differ in their assessment approaches. Ontario's Scorecard links performance measurement with strategy, aimed at health system integration. The Dutch Health Care Performance Report (Zorgbalans) does not explicitly link performance with strategy, and focuses on the technical quality of healthcare by measuring dimensions of quality, access, and cost against healthcare needs. A backbone 'five diamond' framework maps both frameworks and articulates the interrelations and overlap between their goals, themes, dimensions and indicators. The workshop yielded more contextual insights and further validated the comparative values of each constituency's performance assessment system.
To compare the health system performance approaches between The Netherlands and Ontario, Canada, several important conceptual and contextual issues must be addressed, before even attempting any future content comparisons and benchmarking. Such issues would lend relevant interpretational credibility to international comparative assessments of the two health systems.
Collaboration between general practitioners (GPs) and specialists has been the focus of many collaborative care projects during the past decade. Unfortunately, quite a number of these projects failed. This raises the question of what motivates GPs to initiate and continue participating with medical specialists in new collaborative care models.
The following two questions are addressed in this study:
What motivates GPs to initiate and sustain new models for collaborating with medical specialists?
What kind of new collaboration models do GPs suggest?
A qualitative study design was used. Starting in 2003 and finishing in 2005, we conducted semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 21 Dutch GPs. The sampling criteria were age, gender, type of practice, and practice site. The interviews were recorded, fully transcribed, and analysed by two researchers working independently. The resulting motivational factors and preferences were grouped into categories.
'Developing personal relationships' and 'gaining mutual respect' appeared to dominate when the motivational factors were considered. Besides developing personal relationships with specialists, the GPs were also interested in familiarizing specialists with the competencies attached to the profession of family medicine. Additionally, they were eager to increase their medical knowledge to the benefit of their patients. The GPs stated a variety of preferences with respect to the design of new models of collaboration.
Developing personal relationships with specialists appeared to be one of the dominant motives for increased collaboration. Once the relationships have been formed, an informal network with occasional professional contact seemed sufficient.
Although GPs are interested in increasing their knowledge, once they have reached a certain level of expertise, they shift their focus to another specialty.
The preferences for new collaboration models are diverse. A possible explanation for the differences in the preferences is that professionals are more knowledge driven than organisation driven as the acquiring of new knowledge is considered more important than the route by which this is achieved. A new collaboration model seems a way to acquire knowledge. Once this is achieved the importance of a model possibly diminishes, whereas the professional relationships last.
Nowadays, nurses play a central role in telephone triage in Dutch out-of-hours primary care. The percentage of calls that is handled through nurse telephone advice alone (NTAA) appears to vary substantially between GP cooperatives. This study aims to explore which determinants are associated with NTAA and with subsequent return consultations to the GP.
For the ten most frequently presented problems, a two-week follow-up cohort study took place in one cooperative run by 25 GPs and 8 nurses, serving a population of 62,291 people. Random effects logistic regression analysis was used to study the determinants of NTAA and return consultation rates. The effect of NTAA on hospital referral rates was also studied as a proxy for severity of illness.
The mean NTAA rate was 27.5% – ranging from 15.5% to 39.4% for the eight nurses. It was higher during the night (RR 1.63, CI 1.48–1.76) and lower with increasing age (RR 0.96, CI 0.93–0.99, per ten years) or when the patient presented >2 problems (RR 0.65; CI 0.51–0.83). Using cough as reference category, NTAA was highest for earache (RR 1.49; CI 1.18–1.78) and lowest for chest pain (RR 0.18; CI 0.06–0.47). After correction for differences in case mix, significant variation in NTAA between nurses remained (p < 0.001). Return consultations after NTAA were higher after nightly calls (RR 1.23; CI 1.04–1.40). During first return consultations, the hospital referral rate after NTAA was 1.5% versus 3.8% for non-NTAA (difference -2.2%; CI -4.0 to -0.5).
Important inter-nurse variability may indicate differences in perception on tasks and/or differences in skill to handle telephone calls alone. Future research should focus more on modifiable determinants of NTAA rates.
To improve health-care delivery, care providers must base their services on community health needs and create a seamless continuum of care in which these needs can be met. Though, it is not obvious that providers apply this vision. Experiments with regulated competition in the health systems of many industrialized countries trigger providers to optimize individual organizational goals rather than improve population health from a community perspective. Thus, a tension exists between the need to collaborate and the need to compete. Despite or because of this tension, community health partnerships are being promoted, and this should enforce a needs-based and integrated care delivery.
In this single case study, we retrospectively explored how local health-care providers in Amsterdam collaborated for more than 30 years, interacting with the changes to the national health-care system. In-depth analysis of interviews, documents and literature focused on the complex relationship between the activities of this health partnership, its nature and its changing context.
The findings revealed that the partnership itself was successful and sustainable over time, although the partnership lost its initial broad explorative nature and narrowed its strategic focus towards care of the elderly. Furthermore, the realized projects – although they enforced integrated care – lost their community-based character. This declining scope of community-based integrated care seems to have been influenced by the incremental introduction of regulated competition in Dutch health care. This casts doubts on the ability of health partnerships to apply a vision of community-based integrated care within the context of competition.
Collaborating health-care providers can build seamless continuums of care in a competitive environment, although these will not automatically maximize community health with limited resources. Active policies with regard to health system design, incentive structures and population-based performance measures are warranted in order to insure that community-based integrated care through health partnerships will be more than just policy rhetoric.
To systematically identify, describe and characterise the collaborative initiatives, which have been established between the Academic Medical Centre/University of Amsterdam and local health care providers in the adjacent community.
The viability of university hospitals is jeopardised. Their narrowed orientation on delivering the most advanced services to the sickest patients challenges their missions in patient care, science and education. By linking up with local health care providers, university hospitals create synergistic relationships that should secure these three academic missions for the future.
We conducted a multiple case study in two stages. Initially, division leaders and the director of integrated care were consulted to identify all existing collaborative initiatives of the Academic Medical Centre. Successively, face-to-face interviews were held with the leaders of these initiatives. During these interviews data were primarily collected through a questionnaire. Notes of the interviewer, and documents (if available) were also collected. The analysis focused on systematically describing and characterising the initiatives using the concept of ‘community-based integrated care’.
Twenty-seven heterogeneous initiatives were identified. Half of these initiatives are targeted to the adjacent community of the Academic Medical Centre, but only four of them are initiated on the basis of community information and involve the community and/or patients. Furthermore, the extent of integration differed per dimension. Functional integration within the initiatives has been relatively low, clinical integration mixed, and professional integration quite advanced.
The results indicate that a considerable number of collaborative initiatives have emerged. Still, these initiatives are loosely ‘community-based’ and hardly focus on the full integration of care services. This suggests that the community linkages of the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam could be further developed by gaining the full support of all clinical departments for the strategic approach and by adapting an overall hospital perspective to monitor the progress towards community-based integrated care.
academic medicine; university hospitals; integrated care; community health planning
Few studies have tried to assess the combined cross-sectional and temporal contributions of a more comprehensive set of amenable factors to population health outcomes for wealthy countries during the last 30 years of the 20th century. We assessed the overall ecological associations between mortality and factors amenable to public health. These amenable factors included addictive and nutritional lifestyle, air quality, public health spending, healthcare coverage, and immunizations.
We used a pooled cross-sectional, time series analysis with corrected fixed effects regression models in an ecological design involving eighteen member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development during the period 1970 to 1999.
Alcohol, tobacco, and fat consumption, and sometimes, air pollution were significantly associated with higher all-cause mortality and premature death. Immunizations, health care coverage, fruit/vegetable and protein consumption, and collective health expenditure had negative effects on mortality and premature death, even after controlling for the elderly, density of practicing physicians, doctor visits and per capita GDP. However, tobacco, air pollution, and fruit/vegetable intake were sometimes sensitive to adjustments.
Mortality and premature deaths could be improved by focusing on factors that are amenable to public health policies. Tackling these issues should be reflected in the ongoing assessments of health system performance.
Intermediate care was developed in order to bridge acute, primary and social care, primarily for elderly persons with complex care needs. Such bridging initiatives are intended to reduce hospital stays and improve continuity of care. Although many models assume positive effects, it is often ambiguous what the benefits are and whether they can be transferred to other settings. This is due to the heterogeneity of intermediate care models and the variety of collaborating partners that set up such models. Quantitative evaluation captures only a limited series of generic structure, process and outcome parameters. More detailed information is needed to assess the dynamics of intermediate care delivery, and to find ways to improve the quality of care. Against this background, the functioning of a low intensity early discharge model of intermediate care set up in a residential home for patients released from an Amsterdam university hospital has been evaluated. The aim of this study was to produce knowledge for management to improve quality of care, and to provide more generalisable insights into the accumulated impact of such a model.
A process evaluation was carried out using quantitative and qualitative methods. Registration forms and patient questionnaires were used to quantify the patient population in the model. Statistical analysis encompassed T-tests and chi-squared test to assess significance. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 staff members representing all disciplines working with the model. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using both 'open' and 'framework' approaches.
Despite high expectations, there were significant problems. A heterogeneous patient population, a relatively unqualified staff and cultural differences between both collaborating partners impeded implementation and had an impact on the functioning of the model.
We concluded that setting up a low intensity early discharge model of intermediate care between a university hospital and a residential home is less straightforward than was originally perceived by management, and that quality of care needs careful monitoring to ensure the change is for the better.
In quality of care research, limited information is found on the relationship between quality of care and disease outcomes. This case-control study was conducted with the aim to assess the effect of guideline adherence for stroke prevention on the occurrence of stroke in general practice. We report on the problems related to a variant of confounding by indication, that may be common in quality of care studies.
Stroke patients (cases) and controls were recruited from the general practitioner's (GP) patient register, and an expert panel assessed the quality of care of cases and controls using guideline-based review criteria.
A total of 86 patients was assessed. Compared to patients without shortcomings in preventive care, patients who received sub-optimal care appeared to have a lower risk of experiencing a stroke (OR 0.60; 95% CI 0.24 to 1.53). This result was partly explained by the presence of risk factors (6.1 per cases, 4.4 per control), as reflected by the finding that the OR came much closer to 1.00 after adjustment for the number of risk factors (OR 0.82; 95% CI 0.29 to 2.30). Patients with more risk factors for stroke had a lower risk of sub-optimal care (OR for the number of risk factors present 0.76; 95% CI 0.61 to 0.94). This finding represents a variant of 'confounding by indication', which could not be fully adjusted for due to incomplete information on risk factors for stroke.
At present, inaccurate recording of patient and risk factor information by GPs seriously limits the potential use of a case-control method to assess the effect of guideline adherence on disease outcome in general practice. We conclude that studies on the effect of quality of care on disease outcomes, like other observational studies of intended treatment effect, should be designed and performed such that confounding by indication is minimized.